Cup champion Hermann Maier became only the third man in history to win four World Cup titles in a season Saturday, despite crashing out of the final giant slalom in Bormio, Italy.
His young teammate Benjamin Raich demonstrated the depth of the Austrian team by winning the giant slalom in 2 minutes, 25.64 seconds for his second World Cup victory this year.
Maier, who had already collected the World Cup overall, downhill and super-G titles, entered the giant slalom just 83 points ahead of Christian Mayer and 94 ahead of defending champion Michael Von Gruenigen of Switzerland.
With Maier taking the lead in the opening leg, both his rivals needed to win the race and have the powerful Austrian flop in the second run.
Instead, Von Gruenigen finished back in sixth and Mayer placed a frustrating second, handing Maier the title even before the Austrian had skied his second run.
Maier, with nothing to lose, went blitzing out of the start hut firing on all cylinders, only to wipe in the final drop.
The Austrian won the crown with 520 points, a wafer-thin 3 points ahead of Mayer.
"I was very angry about missing the giant slalom title," said Mayer, who only recently made a strong bid for the title, winning the two previous giant slaloms. "In 1994 I won it by two points and this year I lost it by three. So it's very difficult but everything comes back to you in life."
Adding the giant slalom crystal globe to his trophy case brings the "Herminator's" season total to four, marking the most titles collected in a single season by any skier -man or woman- since Switzerland's Pirmin Zurbriggen won four in 1987. Jean Claude Killy was the first to accomplish the feat in 1967.
The milestone was another laurel in Maier's crown this season, the Austrian having also broken the season-points total record last week before soaring to a whopping 2,000 points.
Liechtenstein's Marco Buechel, who was second after the opening leg, had a disappointing second run, dropping to ninth.
The men will close out the season with a slalom on Sunday.
Results from the men's final World Cup giant slalom of the season Saturday in Bormio, Italy:
1.Benjamin Raich, Austria, 2:25.64 (1:12.01-1:13.63). 2. Christian Mayer, Austra, 2:25.81 (1:11.93-1:13.88). 3. Heinz Schilchegger, Austria, 2:25.88 (1:11.99-1:13.89). 4. Mitja Kunc, Slovenia, 2:25.99 (1:12.12-1:13.87). 5. Hans Knauss, Austria, 2:26.24 (1:12.84-1:13.40). 6. Michael Von Gruenigen, Switzerland, 2:26.28 (1:12.85-1:13.43). 7. Didier Defago, Italy, 2:26.29 (1:12.65-1:13.64). 8. Fredrik Nyberg, Sweden, 2:26.30 (1:13.25-1:13.05). 9. Marco Buechel, Liechtenstein, 2:26.34 (1:11.89-1:14.45). 10. Didier Cuche, Switzerland, 2:26.61 (1:12.57-1:14.04). 11. Andreas Schifferer, Austria, 2:26.77 (1:12.60-1:14.17). 12. Paul Accola, Switzerland, 2:26.79 (1:12.57-1:14.22). 13. Stephan Eberharter, Austria, 2:27.13 (1:13.10-1:14.03). 14. Urs Kaelin, Switzerland, 2:27.36 (1:13.09-1:14.27). 15. Sami Uotila, Finland, 2:27.42 (1:13.79-1:13.63). 16. Steve Locher, Switzerland, 2:27.43 (1:13.79-1:13.64). 17. Fritz Strobl, Austria, 2:27.50 (1:14.08-1:13.42). 18. Markus Eberle, Germany 2:27.59 (1:14.22-1:13.37). 19. Christophe Saioni, France, 2:27.93 (1:13.69-1:14.24). 20. Werner Franz, Austria, 2:28.33 (1:14.06-1:14.27). 21. Rainer Salzgeber, Austria, 2:28.77 (1:13.55-1:15.22). 22. Kristian Ghedina, Italy, 2:28.96 (1:14.05-1:14:91). 23. Hannes Trinkl, Austria, 2:29.02 (1:14.44-1:14.58). 24. Georg Streitberger, Austria, 2:29.52 (1:15.02-1:14.50).
Did Not Finish First Run: Joel Chenal, France; Vincent Millet, France; Daron Rahlves, United States;
Did Not Start First Run: Kjetil Andre Aamodt, Norway;
Did Not Finish Second Run: Hermann Maier, Austria. Patrick Holzer, Italy; Josef Strobl, Austria;Reuse content