Von Grunigen gives rivals cold shoulder

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The Independent Online

Michael von Grunigen put injury problems behind him yesterday when he won the opening giant slalom of the men's alpine World Cup on a windy Tignes glacier in France.

The 26-year-old Swiss, who damaged a collarbone last season after performing well in the opening giant slaloms, had a near perfect run in the first leg, leaving his compatriot Urs Kaelin and the Norwegian Lasse Kjus almost one second adrift. He hung on in the second leg to beat Kjus by a mere four-hundredths of a second with a total time of 2min 21.38sec. Kaelin, the Olympic giant slalom silver medallist, was third on 2:21.38.

"It is an extremely important win after my shoulder problems last season. I had an operation in spring and was able to train well last summer," said Von Grunigen, who won World Cup giant slaloms in Veysonnaz in 1993 and Val d'Isere last year.

He took advantage of the absence of Italy's overall World Cup holder, Alberto Tomba, who is in California preparing for the forthcoming American races. Slovenia's Jure Kosir, Tomba's main rival in technical events in recent years, went out in the morning run.

The most impressive display of aggressive skiing came from another Swiss, the veteran Paul Accola, who had the fastest second-leg time to move up from 15th to take sixth place overall.

The wind whipped across the icy piste but it was not as gusty as it had been on Saturday when it proved impossible to stage a women's giant slalom.

The men and the women next head for the United States for races in Vail, Colorado.