Skiing: Norway to the fore again

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The Independent Online
KJETIL AAMODT established undisputed Norwegian superiority in alpine ski racing as he won his third medal here yesterday at the World Championships. The 21- year-old from Oslo claimed the slalom with a time of 1min 40.33sec, ahead of Luxembourg's Marc Girardelli (1:40.37) and the Austrian Thomas Stangassinger (1:40.44).

Alberto Tomba, of Italy, suffered another disappointment. The triple Olympic champion did not complete the morning run on Mount Takakura after his illness- weakened legs failed him, and he straddled a gate to go out. Tomba had only risen from his bed 48 hours earlier after a serious stomach virus.

Aamodt completed his hat-trick of medals at Shizukuishi with a day to spare in the 12-day competition. The Olympic gold and bronze medallist from a year ago added the slalom gold to victory in the giant slalom and second place in the men's combined. The victory brings the Norwegian total to five men's medals and the women's downhill silver through the newcomer Astrid Loedemel.

'I started thinking about the slalom gold after the first run,' said Aamodt. 'In the second I made a few mistakes towards the middle, but skied perfectly on the bottom section.'

The margin of victory was a mere .04 of a second over Girardelli. The close call was one of several for the 29-year-old veteran, who has been competing at the World Championships since 1985. 'It is my destiny to place second,' said the runner-up, who was defending the slalom title from 1991. But the silver brings his career total of podiums at the event to 10, one more than the retired Swiss racer Pirmin Zurbriggen. 'This is still my best slalom finish for two years,' said Girardelli. Aamodt said he was relaxed when he skied thanks to the confidence which comes from medals in the bag.

The Norwegians' performance here suggests they are shaping up to be the main threat to the Alpine nations' established superiority when they host the Winter Olympics in Lillehammer in a year's time.

Today's final day will, it is hoped, feature the men's and women's super-giant slalom, which have been repeatedly postponed because of high winds.