Skiing: Lehmann enjoys his late show

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The Independent Online
THE men's downhill title remained in Swiss hands as Urs Lehmann followed in the footsteps of Franz Heinzer and became world champion here yesterday. Lehmann took the gold medal ahead of Atle Skaardal, of Norway, and the American, A J Kitt.

On a day of mild weather which left the Alpine World Championships organisers much relieved, both the men's and women's blue-riband events were held without any worries about conditions. With three days remaining, the 12-day event is back on schedule, and only the super-giant slalom for both sexes and the men's slalom are left to be contested.

Kate Pace, of Canada, won the premier women's race yesterday despite the handicap of an injured right hand. Pace, a 23-year-old from North Bay, Ontario, put her injury worries to the back of her mind and concentrated on victory in the women's downhill - staged one week later than originally planned.

In the men's event, Lehmann completed the short Mount Takakura track in 1min 32.06sec. He bumped Skaardal out of the top position by racing well from a late No 20 start. 'I would not be world champion now if I had started in the first 10,' he said. 'The course got faster in the flat parts for later numbers.'

Skaardal's silver - and the same medal from Astrid Loedemel behind Pace - boosted Norway's total to five for the championships. During a training camp last May, Loedemel had boasted to her coach: 'I will win a medal in Japan.' The dream came true as she clocked 1:27.66, compared to the gold-medal time of 1:27.38 for Pace. Anja Haas, of Austria, claimed bronze with 1:27.84. Pace was bursting with confidence. 'I'm not surprised,' she said. 'I've been thinking about the World Championships for a long time.' The Canadian hurt her hand last month in a fall at Haus, Austria, in the World Cup. She was unable to use it much and spent this week training to get out of the gate using her left hand only.

'I couldn't move my fingers at the start of the week, but I was going for gold today,' Pace added.

Marc Girardelli, the men's World Cup leader, threw in the towel at the downhill before it even began. So unsure was he of gaining a top-three finish after a poor final training run on Wednesday that he did not even enter the competition.

(Photograph omitted)

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