Skiing: First victory for Schifferer

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The Independent Online
ANDREAS SCHIFFERER, of Austria, won his first race of the year after an injury-plagued season and handed his World Cup downhill crown over to Norway's Lasse Kjus yesterday.

Schifferer, the outgoing champion who injured his shoulder at the Nagano Olympics and broke a leg in August, skied Norway's Kvitfjell course in the first of three races in one minute 46.36sec. The 24-year-old finished 0.10sec ahead of his compatriot Stephan Eberharter and 0.32sec ahead of Norway's Kjetil Andre Aamodt, who extended his lead in the race for the overall World Cup title with six races left.

"This season I tried to come back from injury too quickly and had not come into form before now," said Schifferer, after the fifth World Cup downhill victory of his career. This season his best previous placing in the discipline was sixth. He was third in a giant slalom in December.

Kjus, who won five medals at the World Championships in Vail last month and who missed races last weekend due to bronchitis, wrapped up the World Cup downhill title with a fourth place behind Aamodt. Kjus is the first Norwegian ever to win the downhill title. He has 580 points in the standings, just enough to prevent his main challenger, Austria's Werner Franz, from catching him with two races left.

The defending World Cup champion Hermann Maier, of Austria, skied a ragged course down the steep Kvitfjell piste and ended in 16th place, more than two seconds adrift of Schifferer. Maier's disappointing placing on the steep course meant that he lost his second place in the overall standing to Kjus, the 1996 champion. Aamodt now has a total of 1,230 points with Kjus on 1,139 with six races left.

"I was surprised to beat both Maier and Kjus today." Aamodt said. "I especially didn't think I'd be ahead of Kjus." Aamodt said he just felt hungrier to win the overall title than Kjus, after Kjus's historic five medals at the World Championships against only two for Aamodt.

The women's world champion Renate Goetschl, of Austria, won yesterday's women's downhill race at St Moritz, in Switzerland, to clinch the season's World Cup title in the discipline.

Goetschl mastered the relatively unchallenging Corviglia course in one minute 48.65sec, edging her nearest rival, compatriot Michaela Dorfmeister, by a solid 0.30sec.

It marked Goetschl's third straight downhill victory, the Austrian claiming the gold medal at the world championships in Vail three weeks ago and winning at Are, in Sweden, last week. Italy's Isolde Kostner finished third. Germany's Hilde Gerg, who was also vying for the coveted title coming into the race, tied for sixth with the World Cup overall leader Alexandra Meissnitzer, of Austria.