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Maier Wins Men’s Giant Slalom

January 6, 1998 GMT

SAALBACH-HINTERGLEMM, Austria (AP) _ Even a rejuvenated Alberto Tomba could not put a stop to Hermann Maier’s hot streak.

Tomba, winner of five Olympic medals, staged one of his trademark second-run comebacks to jump from eighth to second place Tuesday at a World Cup giant slalom race.

But Maier, who led after the first run, put together a blistering second heat to clinch his fourth win of the season by a commanding 2.44 seconds.

``I skied for my life in the second run,″ Maier said. ``I remembered that Tomba had won world titles after being in similar situations after the first run. It wasn’t a perfect run, but it wasn’t that bad, was it?″


Tomba trailed Maier by 1.54 seconds after the first heat, but the Italian had a sensational second run to post his best finish in a World Cup giant slalom in exactly two years.

At that time, Maier was a bricklayer and a part-time ski instructor who hoped to join the powerful Austrian team. He was a forerunner in that race and he was noticed by Austrian coaches.

Maier’s first victory came last season in a super-giant slalom in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany. Tuesday’s victory was his fourth this season extended his lead in the overall World Cup standings to 311 points over Austrian Stefan Eberharter.

Maier, 25, posted a winning aggregate of two minutes, 37.96 seconds after clocking the fastest times in both heats on the 52-gate Zwoelfer course that had a vertical drop of 1,320 feet.

``Hermann is out of the reach right now. On the podium, I told him that he would be very hard to beat if he goes on like this,″ Tomba said.

Tomba had one of his trademark second-run comebacks to finish with the second-fastest combined time of 2:40.40.

Although it wasn’t enough to beat Maier, it was enough to put Tomba back among the contenders one month before the start of the Winter Olympics. It was his fourth top 10 finish this season.

``When you work so hard, it’s especially nice to make the podium. Even when you’ve won so much as I have,″ said Tomba, who won the overall World Cup title in 1995 and has 48 race victories. ``I am really happy, I feel ready for Nagano. Give me a week and I’ll be fully prepared.″

Rainer Salzgeber of Austria, second after the first run, dropped to third at 2:40.65.

Maier’s victory gave Austria its sixth consecutive men’s victory and 11th in 15 men’s races this season. But Christian Mayer, the Austrian who won the last two giant slaloms, failed to finish the second run after placing 13th in the first heat.