Mon, Dec 06, 2004 - Page 20 News List

Lasse Kjus beats Hermann Maier in giant slalom event

AP , BEAVER CREEK, COLORADOAP, LAKE LOUISE, ALBERTAAP, BERN, SWITZERLAND

Lasse Kjus won his 17th World Cup race and first of the season Saturday, posting the fastest second run and winning a giant slalom by 17-hundredths of a second ahead of Hermann Maier of Austria.

Kjus, a two-time overall World Cup champion from Norway who finished eighth last season, rallied from fifth after the first run, 74-hundredths of a second off the lead with a second trip of 1 minute, 15.74 seconds and an aggregate time of 2:29.82.

"I was surprised. I'm so used to being disappointed [in GS] when I'm coming down and seeing my time," said Kjus, who won five medals at the 1999 worlds in Beaver Creek and neighboring Vail.

"I have lots of good memories of Beaver Creek and Vail," Kjus said. "I skied my best giant slalom run here, the first run in '99."

Maier was seventh after the first run, nearly a full second back, and finished with a time of 2:30.27, 19-hundredths ahead of Austrian compatriot Benjamin Raich.

"The course was perfect for Lasse's style, too, because he skied so smooth," Maier said. "But, for me, it's very good I'm on the podium."

American Bode Miller, who had won four of the first five races this season, crashed during his first run, but still retained the overall lead with 480 points, 206 more than Maier in second place.

The victory left Kjus and Miller tied atop the giant slalom standings with 100 points each, two more than Italy's Massimiliano Blardone.

Germany's Hilde Gerg overcame steady snow and fog and won the the second women's World Cup downhill race of the season Saturday, beating Austria's Renate Goetschl by 15-hundredths of a second.

Gerg, second in last year's downhill standings, won the race in 1 minute, 36.01 seconds.

"It's nice to win [a downhill] so early," said Gerg, who reached the podium for the fifth time at Lake Louise and the winner's step twice. "I had a good feeling today. I concentrated on staying aggressive because it's not easy if you can't see too much. It just worked."

Goetschl, last year's downhill champion, was second in 1:36.16 while France's Carole Montillett-Carles was third in 1:36.20.

Montillett-Carles was second in Friday's downhill and climbed the podium for the eighth time in the last nine races in Lake Louise.

Montillet-Carles was third 140 points.

Tanja Poutiainen of Finland, who does not ski the speed disciplines, retained the overall World Cup lead with 340 points, 51 more than Sweden's Anja Paerson, who finished 17th on Saturday. Kostelic was third with 238 points while Gerg moved into fourth with 160 points, three ahead of Goetschl and American Kristina Koznick.

Norwegians Marit Bjorgen and Tor Arne Hetland topped the podium Saturday in World Cup cross country sprint races.

Bjorgen beat Claudia Kuenzel of Germany for her third first-place finish of the season in the women's 800-meter freestyle. Ella Gjomle of Norway was third.

Bjorgen also stretched her lead in the overall standings. She now has 410 points, followed by Kristina Smigun of Estonia with 260. Smigun did not race in Bern.

In the men's 1.35km freestyle, Hetland took his first victory of the season, edging Thobias Fredriksson of Sweden and third-place Johan Kjolstad of Norway.

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