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Five titles on line in World Cup Finals

March 10, 1997

VAIL, Colo. (AP) _ Five titles have been decided and five more remain up for grabs, leaving plenty of suspense when the World Cup Finals get under way here on Wednesday.

The season-ending ski races also could conclude the careers of a number of racers, including the remarkable Alberto Tomba and American downhiller Hilary Lindh.

Tomba, 30, is coming off a dismal weekend and an indifferent season thus far. He failed to qualify for the second heat of Saturday’s giant slalom in Shigakogen, Japan, then skidded out in the middle of his first run of slalom on Sunday.

Tomba owns five gold medals in the Olympics and world championships in giant slalom and slalom, and he has captured World Cup titles four times in each discipline over his 12-year career. This season, however, he has failed to score a single point in giant slalom races and ranks a distant fourth in the slalom standings.

Lindh, 27, had pondered retirement prior to this season, partly because of a chronically sore back. She returned and won the downhill last month at the world championships in Sestriere, Italy, making her the most successful U.S. downhiller in major championships. She has two world championship medals to go with an Olympic silver.

Lindh, who won a World Cup downhill on this course in 1994, was well off the pace in two women’s training runs on Monday.

She finished 13th in the first run, 1.5 seconds behind pacesetter Katharina Gutensohn of Germany. She was 22nd in the second run, 2.88 seconds behind Austria’s Renate Goetschl.

Gutensohn was timed in 1 minute, 46.31 seconds. Italy’s Isolde Kostner was second in 1:46.36, and Austrians Stefanie Schuster and Alexandra Meissnitzer were third and fourth, respectively, in 1:46.53 and 1:46.85.

Regine Cavagnoud of France was fifth in 1:46.91, Germany’s Katja Seizinger sixth in 1:47.07 and Canada’s Melanie Turgeon seventh in 1:47.23.

Goetschl had a second-run time of 1:44.07, leading a 1-2-3 sweep by Austria. Schuster was second in 1:44.65 and Meissnitzer third in 1:44.72. Kostner placed fourth in 1:44.76.

The women’s downhill is one of the most hotly contested disciplines. Russia’s Warwara Zelenskaja has won the last three races _ worth 100 points apiece _ to bolt into first place in the standings with 423 points, barely ahead of Switzerland’s Heidi Zurbriggen at 421. Goetschl is third with 403.

Zelenskaja’s best finish in the two training runs was eighth in the second run, 1.19 seconds behind Goetschl. Zurbriggen was ninth and 10th.

Both the women’s and men’s downhills will be contested on Wednesday. The men will have two training runs Tuesday.

The men’s downhill title already has been clinched by Luc Alphand of France. Alphand, who skis only downhills and super giant slaloms, leads the overall standings, but by just 117 points over four-event skier Kjetil Andre Aamodt of Norway.

Alphand is bidding to become the first Frenchman to win the overall title since Jean-Claude Killy’s second title in the World Cup’s second season in 1968.

Also undecided are titles in the women’s and men’s super-G races and the men’s slalom.

Sweden’s Pernilla Wiberg clinched the women’s overall title last week.

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