Skiing: Austrians sweep to world record

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The Independent Online
HERMANN MAIER followed in the tracks of his hero, Franz Klammer, leading a record Austrian sweep of the top nine places in a World Cup super-G in front of 20,000 fans yesterday.

It was the first major race held on Innsbruck's Patscherkofel slope since the Austrian Klammer's memorable downhill run for 1976 Olympic gold and the most dominant performance by one country in 30 years of the World Cup.

French women had held the previous record when they took the top six spots in a downhill run in Abetone, Italy, in 1968.

An emotional Maier, who came away from the Nagano Olympics this year with two gold medals and the memory of an astounding downhill crash, said: "I was miles away from the ideal track today. I was so tired and was so wide going around the gates, I felt and must have looked like Franz Klammer in the '76 Olympics.

"But I was obviously fast enough for victory. We need more races like this - the spectators were amazing and the piste was perfectly prepared."

All-rounders have had a punishing schedule with four races - two downhills and one giant slalom in Italy as well as the Innsbruck super-G - held in the last four days.

Maier, who picked up his third victory of the season and 14th overall by posting 1min 23.52sec, snatched the lead in the overall standings from the Norwegian, Lasse Kjus.

The former bricklayer, who is only in his third World Cup season, won the opening giant slalom in Solden and a super-G in Val D'Isere one week ago.

"People who have said my form was so-so this winter forget that this time last year I only had two season wins," said the 26-year-old from Flachau, who has won every race he has entered on home soil in 1998. "I have extra motivation for home races and tend to fight more. I'm looking forward to all the Austrian races in January."

Innsbruck has always been a good venue for Austrian skiers. Egon Zimmermann captured the downhill gold medal in the first Olympics hosted in the Tyrolean provincial capital in 1964.

Maier and his eight other successful team-mates were congratulated by numerous former Austrian champions in the finish area - including Klammer, the 1980 Olympic champion Leonhard Stock, the 1982 world champion Harti Weirather and the 1992 gold medallist Patrick Ortlieb.

Yesterday, Maier beat Christian Mayer by 0.76sec while Fritz Strobl stunned his own team-mates by edging Stephan Eberharter out of third.

They were followed by Rainer Salzgeber, Hans Knauss, Patrick Wirth, Andreas Schifferer and Werner Franz. The best placed non-Austrian was Norway's Lasse Paulsen in 1:24.53.

"Second place was fine," Mayer said. "The best thing about the day were the crowds, the buzz and the fantastic piste."

Austrian schoolchildren in the Tyrol were given the day off so that they could attend.

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