Tomba wins despite personal pressures

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The Independent Online
Alberto Tomba put his off-piste troubles behind him to win a World Cup slalom in Madonna Di Campiglio, Italy, yesterday. The overall World Cup holder marked his 29th birthday with victory after Jure Kosir, quickest in the first leg, failed to finish the second.

"You can imagine what this win means to me," Tomba said. He is formally under police investigation after a freelance photographer, Aldo Martinuzzi, who had sold nude photographs of him to a magazine complained the Italian had thrown a heavy glass trophy at him after a World Cup race on Sunday.

Tomba faces a formal inquiry by Italy's para-military Carabinieri police after injuring the photographer. The Carabinieri said in a statement yesterday that its inquiry would "examine the disciplinary position" of Tomba. A sergeant in the force, he could be either demoted or expelled from the police.

The popular skier's problems began after Sunday's giant slalom in Alta Badia when he appeared to injure the photographer, who has had several brushes with Tomba after marketing the nude photographs.

Martinuzzi, who was not at yesterday's race in Madonna, claims he cut his hand as a result of Tomba throwing a magnum of sparkling wineand then a heavy glass trophy at him during the prize giving ceremony. Tomba had finished third. The civilian police force said on Monday they were investigating the incident.

A hospital report sent to police in the northern Italian city of Bolzano said Martinuzzi had complained of being injured by an "object thrown deliberately" at him.

In a brief television interview, Tomba apologised to his fans but not to Martinuzzi. "Some have misunderstood, interpreting this episode as a moment of hatred, a battle between two people," he said. "I honestly don't think I am a mean person. If I had wanted to harm him, I would have acted out of sight of everybody. I am sorry for the fans."

Tomba was third fastest in the 59-gate first leg of yesterday's slalom but he whipped down the second course to clock a combined time of 1min 34.62sec and secure his first victory of the season and the 30th slalom success of his career.

France's Yves Dimier was second - his best finish - in a distant 1:36.17. Italy's Konrad Ladstaetter moved up into third place when the overall World Cup leader, Lasse Kjus of Norway, was disqualified by the jury after the race for straddling a gate.