Joel Chenal clinches first World Cup victory

Joel Chenal of France clinched his first World Cup victory today, upsetting Austrian favourite Hermann Maier in the giant slalom in Alta Badia, Italy.

Joel Chenal of France clinched his first World Cup victory today, upsetting Austrian favourite Hermann Maier in the giant slalom in Alta Badia, Italy.

Chenal, 26, burst into tears when he realized he would make the podium. He whooped with joy a few minutes later when his time of two minutes, 39.68 seconds stood up as the day's fastest.

Prior to today, Chenal had never topped fifth place. His previous best this season was a 10th place in the season opening giant slalom in Tignes, France.

Maier, 27, who has triumphed five times this season, claimed second place in 2:39.76.

Dubbed the "Herminator" for his bulging muscles and aggressive style, Maier won the two other giant slaloms disputed this season and was the heavy favourite today.

The double Olympic and world champion collected another 80 World Cup points and increased his lead in the overall standings to 320-points over teammate Stephan Eberharter.

Maier is determined to reclaim the overall World Cup crown he lost to Norway's Lasse Kjuss last year.

Kjuss, who has the flu and skipped the last three races, is currently 17th in the standings.

Another Austrian, 32-year-old Rainer Salzgeber, skied to third place with a time of 2.39.95.

Salzgeber has yet to clinch a World Cup, but has collected several second and third place finishes.

First run leader, Sami Uotila of Finland, made a string of mistakes on the steep and icy piste in the second run and slid to ninth place.

The unheralded, 23-year-old Finn stunned his rivals in the first run by posting the fastest time.

Austrian Christian Mayer, 27, winner here in 1997 and the 1994 Olympic bronze medalist in the discipline, also lost time in the second run and dropped from second to seventh place.

The long and steep Alta Badia giant slalom is considered the toughest on the circuit.

The next stop on the men's tour is Kranjska Gora, Slovenia where the slalom is scheduled for Tuesday.

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