Austrians Skiers Finish 1st and 2nd
BORMIO, Italy (AP) _ The Austrian domination in the men’s World Cup, capped by a double triumph in consecutive downhills this week, might ease up in the Alpine gate events.
A slalom and a giant slalom are scheduled next at Kranjska Gora, Slovenia, on Saturday and Sunday, with Michael Von Gruenigen, Finn Christian Jagge, Jure Kosir and Alberto Tomba as likely favorites.
In eight of 12 men’s races held so far this season, it has been the skiers of Austria’s ``Power Team″ in front.
``They look almost unbeatable right now,″ said Norway’s Lasse Kjus, who prevented an all-Austrian podium Tuesday by placing third.
``The Austrians overpowered the competition,″ said Kristian Ghedina of Italy, among the losers at Bormio after winning the opening season downhill at Beaver Creek.
``They are eager to win, to get a place on the Olympic team. The rivalry within the Austrian team is causing more problems to us than pressure on them,″ Ghedina added.
Italy’s most successful downhiller with eight career wins, Ghedina finished 14th and 16th in the two downhill races at his home track Monday and Tuesday.
On Monday, World Cup leader Hermann Maier led an Austrian sweep of the top four places.
In Tuesday’s downhill followup, Andreas Schifferer, Monday’s runnerup by only three hundredths of a second, edged teammate Werner Franz in a 1-2 Austrian finish.
Austrian skiers have made the podium (top three) in all but one race so far.
Gate events could stop their winning streak (three victories in the last three races). However, giant slalom and slalom specialists such as Christian Mayer, Thomas Stangassinger and Thomas Sykora still could keep the Austrian flag flying.
Austria can also rely on its newest star, Maier, who has won in all World Cup disciplines except slalom.
With three season wins _ and a fourth stripped because of a controversial finish line stunt _ Maier commands the overall standings with 639 points, 157 ahead of another Austrian, Stefan Eberharter.
Austrian skiers also lead World Cup standings of their favorite disciplines _ downhill and super-G.
In Slovenia, in the first races of the Olympic year, Von Gruenigen will be shooting for his third season victory in giant slalom.
The mustachioed Swiss, the world giant slalom champion, already won in Val D’Isere and Tignes, France.
Jagge, the Norwegian who captured an Olympic slalom title in 1992, is in top form and already showed it by winning a night slalom at Sestriere earlier this month.
Tomba, the Italian star, placed fourth at Sestriere in his best season showing. He’s gradually regaining condition and confidence, and promised to make a new year’s gift to Italian fans in Slovenia.
A three-time Olympic champion, the 31-year-old Tomba will compete in his fourth Winter Games at Nagano in February.