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Skiing: Ortlieb suffers horrific accident

PATRICK ORTLIEB, Austria's former world and Olympic downhill champion, suffered a career-threatening broken thigh and other serious injuries yesterday when he crashed in training for this weekend's World Cup races here, putting his future career in doubt.

After the notorious Streif piste on the Hahnenkamm mountain had claimed yet another victim, the Austrian downhill coach, Robert Trenkwalder, said: "I can't say if Patrick's career is over, but I know he wanted to make this his last season."

The 31-year-old veteran and 1992 Olympic champion suffered a complicated compound fracture of his right thigh as well as a badly dislocated and slightly fractured right hip in a hair-raising spill on the most feared piste in ski racing.

After an operation at the Innsbruck University Clinic, doctors said that, as well as breaking his thigh, Ortlieb had also torn lateral ligaments in his right knee and his lungs had collapsed.

A winner here in 1994 and world champion two years later, Ortlieb lost control on the final Hausbergkante corner before the finish straight, cartwheeled forward and crashed heavily into safety nets.

That same final corner also accounted for Frederic Marin-Cudraz, who became the fifth French downhill skier to suffer a bad injury this season. Marin-Cudraz tore the cruciate ligament in his left knee.

Meanwhile, the veteran Regine Cavagnoud brought an end to two droughts, claiming her first World Cup win and France's first victory in a women's downhill in 17 years.

Using a pair of five-year-old skis, Cavagnoud stormed down the sun-drenched, 2,600-metre Olimpia delle Tofane course in 1 min 31.06 sec to deny Italy's Isolde Kostner a fourth win in as many years at Cortina d'Ampezzo, Italy. The victory was the first in downhill by a French woman since Caroline Attia won in nearby Sansicario, Italy, in 1982.

"It was about time a French skier won a downhill," said Cavagnoud. "Carole Merle had been second five times, Melanie Suchet three times and me twice so the whole team was trying very hard to end this record. I had good feelings on this course, I knew I could win a race."

The German Hilde Gerg was third in 1:31.26, closing the gap on Austria's Alexandra Meissnitzer in the overall standings.