Skiing: Seizinger's Cortina triumph

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The Independent Online
THE World Championships are a fortnight away, and the world's best downhillers look to have timed their preparation to perfection.

The women's World Cup champion in the discipline, Germany's Katja Seizinger won her first downhill of the season in Cortina d'Ampezzo yesterday, while her male counterpart, Franz Heinzer of Switzerland, who passed that landmark last week, was comfortably fastest in practice for today's race in St Anton.

Seizinger, who had finished fourth, third and second in the previous races, was in brilliant form on a piste most of the rest found too difficult, and won by an impressive half-second from the in-form French skier, Carole Merle, who was bidding for a hat-trick. Her time was a full second faster than the winning time over the identical course last week.

Seizinger leads the downhill standings, but the fight for the overall World Cup is between Merle and Austria's Anita Wachter. Merle, the reigning slalom and giant slalom champion, produced her best downhill performance of the season, while Wachter, who is weak on downhill, steeled herself to battle through to ninth place. Both will be happier in today's slalom and tomorrow's giant-slalom.

Heinzer is fast everywhere around a mountain these days. He won on a tough piste at Garmisch last week, and skated down what he regards as an even harder one at St Anton quicker than anyone else yesterday.

(Photograph omitted)

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