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Swiss Heidi Zurbriggen Wins for Once

March 7, 1996

KVITFJELL, Norway (AP) _ Victories don’t get any sweeter than Heidi Zurbriggen’s.

As she was contemplating retirement, the 28-year-old Swiss veteran finally got what she had always dreamed of and always missed, often by a hair, by winning her first World Cup race Wednesday.

``Finally luck was on my side,″ Zurbriggen said after clinching the season’s last downhill. ``I have always thought to myself that I wanted one World Cup win before I retired, and now I did it.″

Zurbriggen skied the Kvitjell Olympic course, shortened due to wind, in 1 minute, 10.25 seconds. She beat Italian Isolde Kostner by one-hundredth and Seizinger by .35, and that gave Zurbriggen something to ponder: whether to actually retire.

``I need to think about it for two or three weeks,″ she said.

When it comes to the women’s overall championship, there is nothing left to consider. Seizinger decided that Wednesday by beating her closest rivals, Anita Wachter of Austria and fellow German Martina Ertl, to clinch the title with three races left.

``It’s a great feeling,″ said Seizinger, who last year lost the title by six points.

Norwegians were also feeling great when they watched Kjus win the men’s downhill and stretch his lead in the overall championship to a virtually unbeatable 1,138 points, or 183 points ahead of his closest rival, Guenther Mader of Austria.

``I’m not the champion yet,″ Kjus said.

But Mader, second in the downhill race, said Kjus is as good as champion.

``It would have been difficult (to catch Kjus) before today’s races. Now, it is just about impossible,″ he said. ``I will just concentrate on the super-G.″

Kjus missed nine events after a severe crash during practice in January. But he was strong Wednesday, finishing in 1 minute, 27.09, nearly 0.4 seconds ahead of both Mader, with a time of 1:27.48, and Kristian Ghedina of Italy, with 1:27.49.

Luc Alphand of France clinched the men’s downhill title before the Kvitfjell race, with 507 points, and Picabo Street of the United States had secured the women’s downhill crown after last weekend’s races in Narvik, Norway.

Street, suffering a painful sinus infection, finished 16th Wednesday. She decided to skip the remaining races and go home for a ``home-cooked meal.″

Seizinger, 23, was also assured of the Super-G title, with a 111-point lead going into today’s final at Kvitfjell. Even if her closest rival, Alexandra Meissnitzer of Austria, won and the German did not start, Seizinger would still have an 11-point lead.

The men’s overall Super-G crown was far less certain, with six skiers within striking distance. Going into the race, where a win is worth 100 points, Atle Skardal of Norway led with 280 points, just 13 points ahead of Austrian Hans Knaus, an uncertain starter because of a cold.

Kjus had 204 points, Richard Kroell of Austria had 201, Peter Runggaldier had 189 points and Alphand with 182.