Skiing: Skier dies after crash

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The Independent Online
THE AUSTRIAN former world champion Ulrike Maier died in hospital last night after crashing at 60 mph during the women's World Cup downhill race in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany.

Doctors had performed a throat operation on the piste to try and save Maier, 26, after she had hit her head on a timing post after losing control of her right ski on the lower part of the course, which is considered to be one of the most challenging on the World Cup circuit.

Her helmet flew off and as Maier slid down the course on her back she appeared to be hit in the face by one of her skis. Doctors carried out a tracheotomy on the unconscious skier where she lay. Unconfirmed reports also said that the emergency team had to restart Maier's heart and use mouth- to-mouth resuscitation to get her breathing again.

Maier, 26, a former world super-g champion, and a mother of two, was flown by helicopter to a clinic at Murnau, outside Munich, where she died in intensive care.

Dr Guenter Hofmann said at the clinic that Maier had broken a bone in the back of her neck in the fatal accident.

The race, the fourth women's World Cup downhill of the season, was won by the Italian Isolde Kostner, but her first World Cup triumph was compeltely overshadowed by Maier's fatal crash. Kostner won in 1min 44.04sec. France's Melanie Suchet was second in 1:44.68 with the Canadian Michelle Ruthven third in 1:44.75. But the trio skied in very different conditions to the higher-starting racers after a 30- minute break in the race following Maier's crash.

The Norwegian World Cup leader, Kjetil-Andre Aamodt, won the men's downhill in Chamonix to join the select list of all-rounders to have won major races in all four alpine ski disciplines.

Racing in the shadow of Mont Blanc, Aamodt clocked 1min 58.35sec to beat Jean-Luc Cretier, of France, by 0.34sec and Hannes Trinkl, of Austria, by 0.52 and claim the ninth World Cup win of his career - the most important by far.

In doing so, he became only the third man - after the now retired Swiss Pirmin Zurbriggen and Aamodt's rival for the overall World Cup title, Marc Girardelli, of Luxembourg - to have won races in all four events.

'It was my main goal for the season to win a downhill,' the 22-year-old from Oslo said.

'It's funny but I dreamt I would win last night and I was so pleased by that, I felt unusually relaxed today at the start.'