Skiing: Maier wins on `one leg'

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The Independent Online
ON ONE ski or two, Hermann Maier proved again on Saturday that he is currently the best skier in the world. The outstanding Austrian saw off the rest of the men's Alpine World Cup field to win the opening downhill of the season at Beaver Creek, Colorado, despite a misfortune early in his run.

The reigning world downhill champion skied over a rock and took out some eight inches along the inside edge of his left ski, yet still managed to navigate, with weight primarily on one leg, the treacherous Birds of Prey course nearly a full second faster than anyone in the field of 66 starters.

"After the gliding section, I skied over this rock and my ski is now damaged. It was very hard for me to ski down to the finish," Maier said. "You have to ski aggressive here to win and at the moment it is great for me to ski. I'm always faster, even with a damaged ski."

Maier posted a winning time of 1min 43.77sec, with his Austrian team- mate, Stephan Eberharter, a distant second in 1:44.68. Kristian Ghedina of Italy, who won the inaugural downhill run on the course in 1997, stopped an Austrian podium sweep by capturing third in 1:44.89. Austrian skiers took the next three places.

Maier now has a substantial overall lead in the World Cup standings after he won his second giant slalom and the downhill on the same course where he claimed his first World Championship title in February.

Results, Digest, page 9