Skiing: Palander destroys slalom field

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Ignoring the cast on his arm, Finland's Kalle Palander continued to dominate the men's slalom field, winning a World Cup race yesterday by more than half-a-second over his nearest rival.

The defending World Cup slalom champion, wearing a cast on his right forearm because of bad tendinitis, twisted his way down the Hermann Maier Weltcupstrecke in a two-run combined time of 1min 42.24sec, finishing 0.54sec ahead of runner-up, Manfred Pranger of Austria.

"The cast is not a problem," said Palander, who has been wearing it since before Christmas because of repetitive motion syndrome. "In a race you can have pain and you don't feel anything. It's in training that it's a problem. But I had injections and it was alright."

Italy's Giorgio Rocca, fourth after the opening run, crossed third in 1:42.80 after a strong second effort.

"I was expecting more but lost so much time in the first run," said the consistent Rocca, who has been fourth, second and third in the slalom this season. "My goal was second place but I missed that by a little."

Benjamin Raich, the winner of Saturday's giant slalom, was third heading into the final leg but dropped to fourth, 0.61sec back, while Britain's Alain Baxter registered another top-20 finish after his 11th place in Madonna di Campiglio before Christmas, posting a time of 1:44.38 to finish 18th.

Palander's victory boosted him from fourth to first in the World Cup discipline rankings, where he sits tied with Pranger on 200 points. He also climbed from ninth to third in the overall standings.

"I'm happy to be wearing the leader's bib. I like red," Palander said. "But the season is far from over and anything can happen.

"I was fourth last year in the overall and this year I suppose it's possible for me to finish in the top three."

The men's slalom skiers now head for the tougher races on the circuit, the classics in Chamonix, Wengen and Kitzbühel.

Alexandra Meissnitzer took her first victory since March 1999 with a time of 1:24.98 in yesterday's World Cup super giant slalom race in the French resort of Megève.

The win also meant Austria swept the podium places as countrywoman Renate Götschl took second in 1:25.19, while Michaela Dorfmeister was third in 1:25.40.