Thu, Jan 26, 2006 - Page 20 News List

Palander wins his first slalom event of season


Finland's Kalle Palander of Finland on his way to clock the fastest time during the first run of a World Cup slalom race in Schladming, Austria, on Tuesday.


Kalle Palander of Finland put together two near-perfect runs to win his first World Cup race of the season on Tuesday, claiming a men's night slalom by nearly eight-10ths of a second.

Palander, who led following the first leg, won in a combined time of 1 minute, 42.34 seconds.

Japan's Akira Sasaki came in second, 79-hundredths of a second behind -- to equal his best career result -- while overall World Cup leader Benjamin Raich was third, 0.81 seconds back.

Defending overall champion Bode Miller was disqualified after straddling a gate in the first run. American Ted Ligety, who had the leading time in the first run, and Olympic champion Jean-Pierre Vidal were also disqualified for overrunning a gate.

"Unbelievable," Palander said at the finish line. "My last win is two years ago. I can hardly remember feeling so great after a win."

The World Cup victory was Palander's 11th and first since a Sestriere slalom in March 2004. He also won on Schladming's Planai course three years ago.

"I was beginning to think I would never win again, but last year I was on the podium four times and this year I was close, so I was thinking it was still possible," Palander said.

Season slalom leader Giorgio Rocca, who was the next-to-last skier on the final run, looked to be in a commanding position but tripped over a gate in the bottom section with the finish only meters away.

Rocca, who was seeking his sixth victory this season, also straddled a gate in the last slalom in Kitzbuehel -- denting his Olympic prospects on home snow in Turin, Italy, next month.

Sasaki, who skied to second place in Wengen, Switzerland, in 2003, said he had also forgotten what it felt like to be on the podium.

"The feeling has come back. I am very happy to be back," he said. "I wanted to go more straight, to go crazy in attack, but my body was not listening."

Sasaki said that his result had rekindled hopes of Olympic glory for the world's underdogs.

"Olympics is more crazy. It is only once in four years, like a casino. It is gambling skiing," the Japanese said.

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