Skiing: Maier puts the failures behind him

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The Independent Online
HERMANN MAIER, the Olympic champion, yesterday made up for past disappointments in Val d'Isere with an impressive win in a men's super- giant slalom. The Austrian World Cup champion, who was disqualified from a giant slalom he had won here last year and who finished a distant 36th in Saturday's downhill, put the record straight with a commanding time of 1min 18.73sec.

The "Herminator", who came to the French resort after below-par performances in the United States last month, surged back for his second victory this season despite poor visibility. "It's a great satisfaction because my loss in Aspen to Stephan Eberharter was a hard one to swallow," Maier said. The Austrian was second to his compatriot in that first super-G of the season.

Eberharter was second this time on 1:19.91, but had some consolation by taking the lead in the World Cup overall standings with 368pts. Austria have now not lost a men's super-G since February 1997 in Garmisch-Partenkirchen.

The Austrians were especially eager to do well yesterday as they had no finishers in the top 10 as erratic weather conditions favoured late starters. "I quickly forgot yesterday's downhill. The weather conditions were to blame and there was nothing to do," Maier said. "I think this season I have learnt to accept defeat." The 26-year-old was disqualified here last season for removing his skis in jubilation outside the permitted area when he thought he had won the giant slalom.

Even though they did not manage a clean sweep of top placings as they did in Aspen, the Austrian team were back in form in the super-G, placing five men in the top 10. However, they had some competition from the Norwegians Lasse Kjus and Kjetil-Andre Aamodt, who were third and fourth.

Kjus, who finished in 1:20.10, confirmed his victory in Saturday's downhill was not just down to luck. "I'm not at my peak yet, but this is satisfactory. I'm getting better and better," he said. Eberharter sounded more disappointed by his second place than pleased by his lead overall. "I made some mistakes here and you can't make mistakes when Hermann is on a good day," he said.

Meanwhile, three women Nordic skiers have failed dope tests carried out during World Cup races in northern Italy, the news agency ANSA reported .

It said the three, two Norwegians and a Ukranian, were found to have higher-than-permitted levels of red blood cells in a test carried out on Saturday morning in Tobiach. They did not compete in Saturday's five- kilometre cross-country event.

All three women were found to have haematocrit levels of above 16.5, the highest level permitted by the International Ski Federation. One of the Norwegians was later named as Maj Helen Sorkmo.

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