Skiing: Raich the ice king

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Benjamin Raich increased his already bright Olympic prospects yesterday when he became Austria's first men's World Cup giant slalom winner of the season here in Slovenia.

Raich's commanding victory on the icy and treacherous piste was his first of the season and made up for the disappointment of Thursday when he was beaten into second place by the Swede Fredrik Nyberg.

The 23-year-old Austrian went out of the start hut first and stayed ahead throughout to pick up for his country where Hermann Maier left off last season. Maier, the 1998 Olympic champion, who was seriously injured in a motorcycle accident during the summer yesterday made his return to the slopes in his hometown of Flachau. Switzerland's Sylviane Berthod ended Isolde Kostner's downhill winning streak by taking the first victory of her World Cup career on home snow in St Moritz. The 24-year-old Berthod sped down the Engiadina piste to beat the Italian by a mere five hundredths of a second.