Skiing: Tomba in costly fall

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The Independent Online
(First Edition)

ALBERTO TOMBA sustained numbing blows to pride and body in yesterday's giant slalom at Veysonnaz, Switzerland, allowing the host country's Michael Von Grunigen to claim the first World Cup victory of his career.

Hitting the split time marginally down on the Italian Olympic champion, the Swiss's superior leg strength proved decisive on the lower half of the icy, uneven course, and his eventual winning margin was 0.07sec. Von Grunigen's best performance hitherto had been fourth place in a giant slalom at Kranjska Gora last year.

A series of mishaps on his first run left Tomba fortunate to be racing in the top 15 at all. He almost tripped over his pole at the start, crashed on to his back three gates from the end after losing his footing, and hit the last gate before slithering across the line. 'I have never committed three faults in one run like that,' he said. 'The course was very fast and I underestimated its speed.'

Marc Girardelli, whose fourth place allowed Tomba to reduce at least some of the massive gap between the first two in both the giant and overall standings, expressed satisfaction at the result of his seventh race in 10 days. His target, of a record fifth World Cup triumph, is already virtually assured.