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Skiing: Freshwater confirms his No 1 status

ANDREW FRESHWATER confirmed his status as Britain's No 1 men's downhill racer yesterday with a time of 1min 17.26sec to take the Ski Club of Great Britain Challenge Cup on the opening day of racing at The 1999 British Land National Alpine Ski Championships, held in perfect conditions in Tignes, France.

During the previous two days training, Freshwater had lead the strong international field in conditions which were less than favourable and he was undoubtedly favourite to win the British title. Ideal race conditions saw Freshwater being pushed hard by the two younger members of the British Land Alpine Ski Team, Johnny Moulder-Brown and Ross Green, both aged 20, who finished 1.05sec and 1.38sec behind the champion. Freshwater did not ski a tight a line as in training, allowing Marco Sullivan of the United States to take the British Land International title.

Freshwater will be looking to take revenge when the athletes compete in the second downhill event, which takes place today.

Freshwater is however favourite to take the Super G title tomorrow but will have to perform well in the technical events which start on Friday, if he is to prevent Alain Baxter retaining the overall British Championship title. Baxter, who arrived in Tignes yesterday, has been competing on the World Cup circuit this season and is favourite to dominate the technical events.

Freshwater said: "Although I was looking to win the overall title today I am still concentrating on winning the overall British Championship title this week."

In the women's downhill, 20-year-old Tessa Pirie from Aberdeen, took her third consecutive British title and the overall International title in a time of 1:20.5, over half a second faster than her higher world-ranked French rival, Anne Pipet. "Everything just seemed to click for me," said Pirie. "The past two years I have spent improving my fitness and all-round skiing, and training with the Austrian Team in New Zealand last summer has certainly been a real inspiration. I just hope I can continue my current form, and that I get the necessary results to qualify for the World Championships in Vail at the end of the month."

Meanwhile, another exciting British prospect, 15-year-old Danielle Bosher - the youngest competitor in this year's event - came home third, leaving her an seventh overall.

Hermann Maier kept his word and held his nerve in Adelboden, Switzerland, yesterday to win a World Cup giant slalom ahead of his team-mate Benjamin Raich.

Austria's Olympic champion had promised retribution after finishing third in a giant slalom on in Flachau on Sunday behind the victorious newcomer, Raich, and kept his pledge by collecting his sixth win of the season.