Skiing: Locher turns up to spoil Tomba's birthday celebration: High expectations prove too much for Italian as he makes unexpected present of World Cup giant slalom

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The Independent Online
STEVE LOCHER, of Switzerland, gatecrashed Alberto Tomba's birthday party yesterday leaving the Italian in second place in the men's World Cup giant slalom in Alta Badia, Italy. Tomba, celebrating his 27th birthday in the company of more than 25,000 noisy Italian fans, pulled up from fifth place on the first leg but paid dearly for an error on the bottom part of his decisive run.

'It was my birthday but it was me who gifted the race to one of my rivals,' Tomba said. 'I knew I had to go for broke on my second run but I skied badly. I made a bad mistake on the final, flatter part of the course and lost all my momentum. After that run I didn't expect to end up on the podium so I'm pleased. It's hard for me to compete in Italy where expectations are so high.' Locher, whose only previous World Cup win came in a super-G in Val d'Isere in 1990, had the best second leg finishing 1.01sec ahead of Tomba. 'This has to be the biggest day of my career, to win here on this most demanding of pistes and in front of so many great skiers,' Locher said. Locher won a bronze medal in the combined at the 1992 Olympics but saw his form slump last season. 'This is just the result I was looking for to relaunch my career,' he said.

Vreni Schneider, of Switzerland, won the 46th World Cup race of her career yesterday when she won the women's slalom at St Anton, Austria. The overall downhill-slalom prize went to Renate Goetschl of Austria in her first appearance in such a event.

Results, Sporting Digest, page 31

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