Skiing: Schifferer the swifter

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ANDREAS SCHIFFERER of Austria won yesterday's World Cup downhill to wreck the Italian Kristian Ghedina's hopes of an historic double victory in back- to-back races here.

Ghedina had won Friday's first race comfortably and was bidding to become the first man since Franz Klammer in 1976 to triumph in downhills on the daunting Saslong piste on consecutive days. But Schifferer, last year's downhill World Cup winner, produced his best performance of the season to win in 2min 04.78sec and safeguard his compatriot's 23-year- old record.

Ghedina, 14th out of the start hut, immediately behind Schifferer, struggled on the notorious Ciaslat curves and finished second in 2:04.89. The Austrian Hermann Maier, the reigning world champion and winner of the first downhill of the season, in Beaver Creek last month, was third in 2:05.

It was Schifferer's first victory of the campaign, his seventh in downhill and his eighth in the World Cup. It was also the fifth time he had won the second of two back-to-back races. "I don't know why, but I think I feel much safer on the second day," the 25-year-old said. "Maybe it's a bit of a disadvantage, because I can't always wait for a second race."

Maier goes to Alta Badia a week today seeking his third straight giant slalom victory of the season. He still leads the overall World Cup standings, with 680 points to Stephan Eberharter's 440. Schifferer is third on 349, ahead of Ghedina on 312. Maier's lead at the top of the downhill standings has been cut to just eight points. He has 280 to Ghedina's 272 and Schifferer's 203.