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Kjus Shakes Austrians Confidence

December 19, 1998

VAL GARDENA, Italy (AP) _ Self-confidence is the key on the men’s World Cup circuit these days.

Norway’s Lasse Kjus has a shot at a third consecutive triumph today after boosting his own self-confidence on Friday by winning his second downhill race in seven days.

Following an impressive season start, skiers of the powerful Austrian team had their confidence shaken when they were badly beaten by their Norwegian rival in their favorite discipline.

Kjus, a 1996 World Cup overall champion, dominated Friday’s speed race in Val Gardena, beating Werner Franz and Hermann Maier, the ``Herminator,″ by a wide margin.

``If I’m lucky and I repeat myself tomorrow, I can think of another victory,″ said Kjus, whose consecutive downhill wins vaulted him atop the World Cup overall standings with 413 points.

Kjus has been pocketing points in all four World Cup disciplines and leads a trio of Austrians by 30 to 73 points after nine races.

``This victory, with an amazing time, has boosted my self confidence and my chances for the next race,″ Kjus said.

Today’s downhill will be run on the same, icy Saslong course where Friday’s event was staged _ an added race to make up for the one canceled in Whistler, British Columbia, earlier this month.

Maier, who trailed Kjus by 1.10 seconds, conceded the Austrian team morale was low following the consecutive setbacks, which followed two wins by Maier, two by Stephan Eberhartert and one by Thomas Stangassinger in previous Super-G, giant slalom and slalom races.

``Personally, I’m not frustrated because I could not do any better today. I lacked experience on this course,″ said Maier, the defending World Cup overall, Super-G and giant slalom champion.

Italian organizers were hoping for an accident-free race down the 3,495-meter long fast course following bad spills which knocked out American Ehlias Louis and Frenchman David Pretot on Friday.

Louis, 23, of Park City, is out for the rest of the season with a torn left knee cruciate ligament. Pretot tore a right knee ligament.

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