Skiing: Kjus fingers gold

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The Independent Online
NORWAY found gold at the world championships while Alberto Tomba sweated in pain in Morioka, Japan, yesterday.

The Italian Olympic hero was confined to his hotel room with a fever, facing the prospect of missing his first race today. While Tomba suffered in silence, the 'Attacking Vikings' grabbed the glory. Lasse Kjus broke into the big time by leading home a Norwegian one-two in the men's combined event after two days of inactivity in the northern resort of Shizukuishi due to bad weather.

His close friend, Kjetil-Andre Aamodt, was the silver medallist and Luxembourg's Marc Girardelli picked up the ninth world championship medal of his career - a third bronze to go with his three silvers and three golds.

The Norwegians were jubilant with their first men's world title since Stein Eriksen in the slalom and giant slalom in 1954, but they could not keep Tomba's name out of the news. The Olympic giant slalom champion, who has never won a world championship title, woke up after a troubled night with a temperature of 39.1 C and stomach pains.

Italian team officials said only a miracle would get 'La Bomba', who has hardly trained since he arrived in Japan on Wednesday, to the race.

He was allocated a start number - No 4 - but his chances were rated at about 5 per cent and there was even a rumour that he would go home without competing. Switzerland's Paul Accola, the overall World Cup champion and Tomba's great friend and rival, felt well enough after injury but failed to qualify for the Swiss giant slalom team.

The prospect of Tomba's absence was a major blow to the already troubled championships since the Italian is taking part in only two events here. 'It's sad if he can't compete,' Aamodt said of Tomba. 'He is a great racer and the favourite in my eyes. Without him the race loses one of the main personalities.'

(Photograph omitted)