Marc Girardelli confirmed his position among the greats yesterday when he won the men's combined at the world championships in Spain's Sierra Nevada yesterday.
The 32-year-old Luxembourg skier stood 2.42sec behind Austria's Mario Reiter after Tuesday's slalom, but he secured the title for the third time with an overall 3min 31.95sec after yesterday's downhill.
The defending champion, Lasse Kjus, who is also the Olympic champion, took the silver for Norway in 3:32.20, with Austria's Gunther Mader third in 3:32.93.
The Austrian-born Girardelli has now won 11 world championship medals - four golds, four silvers and three bronzes - and two Olympic silver medals. He won the world combined title at the 1987 and 1989 championships. However, yesterday's triumph was his first gold medal since he won the slalom at the 1991 world championships, and it proved that, despite his many injuries, Girardelli still has the ability to dominate in his 17th season on the World Cup circuit.
Despite his triumph, the laconic racer had some critical words for the downhill course, saying it was not steep and demanding enough for top level racing. "It's a great feeling to win a race because my season has not been too good," he said. "But the race was a bit of a lottery. This downhill course should have been a cross-country course."
"I think it's a little too early to say I'm back," said Girardelli, whose wins in recent World Cup seasons have come almost exclusively in combined. "I'm better than before, but I'm not back. I've had some problems the last two or three years in the technical disciplines and the last two years all during downhill."
"I didn't expect to win because the difference between Reiter and me was so big," he added. "I expected a silver but not a gold."
Kjus was ninth after the slalom - the first race to be held under floodlights at a world championships - but he produced the fastest run of 1:51.82 on the fast Sierra Nevada downhill to move onto the podium.
"I am a bit disappointed," the Norwegian said. "I was looking to defend my title. But it was a slow gliders' course."
It was a day for the veterans, with the 31-year-old Mader picking up the fifth world championship medal of his career despite starting the day in 10th place.