SKIING: 'Meissi' puts her name in lights

SKIING
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ALEXANDRA MEISSNITZER, maintaining her winning form from the recent World Ski Championships, beat her fellow Austrian Anita Wachter by 65 hundredths of a second in Are, Sweden, last night to virtually clinch the World Cup giant slalom title.

Competing under the lights on the world's only illuminated GS course, "Meissi" had a combined time of 2 minutes 12.97 seconds after two near- perfect runs down the Gastrappet. It was the ninth victory of the season and fourth in the series for Meissnitzer and it also extended her lead in the overall standings.

In the giant slalom standings, she now leads Wachter by 620 points to 436 and only needs a pair of top 30 finishes in the last two races to clinch the title. Meissnitzer, who led after the first run, also has a chance to win the seasonal downhill land super-G titles.

Wachter, racing on one of her favourite hills where she clinched the 1994 World Cup title, finished second in 2:13.62. Andrine Flemmen of Norway, the silver medallist ahead of Wachter in the World Championships at Vail, Colorado, was third in 2:14.80 with Sonja Nef of Switzerland fourth in 2:14.88, followed by Anna Ottosson of Sweden and the former double Olympic and world champion Deborah Compagnoni of Italy. Martina Ertl, last year's winner here and the World Cup GS champion, missed a gate in the first run and was disqualified.

Yesterday's race marked the restart of the women's World Cup circuit after the World Championships and was the first of four in Scandinavia's leading ski resort this week. A night slalom is scheduled for Tuesday, another GS will be held under the lights on Wednesday before the first- ever women's sprint downhill on the Bernhard Russi-designed Olympia course on Saturday.

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