Skiing: Aamodt lifts Norway: Traditional Alpine nations subdued - Bill Scott reflects on a season of surprises

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The Independent Online
KJETIL Andre Aamodt marked the ascent of Norway to the status of Alpine ski power when he took the men's overall World Cup title with two races to spare in the finals at Vail, Colorado, at the weekend.

The 22-year-old son of a ski coach from Oslo became the first from his nation to earn the crystal globe after keeping at bay the veteran five- times winner, Marc Girardelli of Luxembourg, in a season in which the traditional Alpine powers were forced to take a back seat.

Aamodt made up for his disappointment at last month's Olympics, where he had been unrealistically tipped to win five gold medals. The pressure may have told on him, but he still took a respectable haul of silver in the downhill, silver in the combined and bronze in the super-giant slalom.

'It is getting harder and harder to be an all-round skier,' the Norwegian said after clinching the title. 'There are so many specialist racers now. But my motivation is high. I think that I can have even better seasons than this year.'

The Norwegian considers his unprecedented victory important to a team that hopes to continue the momentum from Lillehammer. 'It means a lot to the team, but this is an individual sport,' Aamodt was quick to admit.

Tomba, the ultimate individualist and bright spark on a circuit populated by relatively grey racers, was given a parental ticking-off by his father, Franco, during the weekend giant slalom, when he wanted to pull out after finishing 16th in the morning leg. Franco told his millionaire son: 'There are a few thousand people out there watching and most of them came to see you. Get out there and race.' Tomba duly did.

When Sunday's final slalom was snowed off, the Italian, who won four events, plus the silver at Lillehammer, collected his third season title in the speciality.

The duel for the women's overall title fizzled out when Sweden's double Olympic gold medallist, Pernilla Wiberg, was forced out of the finals by injury, leaving the crown to the Swiss veteran, Vreni Schneider.

ALPINE WORLD CUP TITLE-WINNERS: Men: Overall: K A Aamodt (Nor); Downhill: M Girardelli (Lux); Super-giant slalom: J E Thorsen (Nor); Giant slalom: C Mayer (Aut); Slalom: A Tomba (It). Women: Overall: V Schneider (Swit); Downhill: K Seizinger (Ger); Super-giant slalom: Seizinger; Giant slalom: A Wachter (Aut); Slalom: Schneider.