Winter Olympics / Giant Slalom: German produces second surprise

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The Independent Online
MARKUS WASMEIER, the German who shocked the Olympics by winning the super-giant slalom earlier in the week, proved it was no fluke by sailing away with the giant slalom yesterday, wrecking Alberto Tomba's dreams of a place in history in the process.

The charismatic Italian's challenge fell apart seconds from what would have been the end of his second run when his quest for extra speed lured him over the limit of control. The mistake resulted in the first failure to finish of the 27-year- old's Games career.

Wasmeier, a 30-year-old Bavarian who had been all but written off by the experts in recent years, surged to victory over the Swiss Urs Kaelin and Christian Mayer of Austria, nearly a decade after winning a 1985 World Championship title. 'I never thought that I had a chance for the top three,' he said. 'The second leg was set straight and fast, and it was for me. I did not think, I just raced. I needed luck and I had it. All I want now is a big, big party.'

Though partying was a Tomba speciality in the late 1980s, it will be all work and no play for the Italian from now until the slalom on Sunday. 'After my first run (he stood 13th with a 1.19sec gap behind the provisional leader Mayer) I did not think that I could win, but I was hoping for a medal. But in the second leg, the course was set so fast, I could barely control my skis.' Besides skiing poorly, the treble Olympic champion was also freezing in -15 C temperatures. 'This was a course for penguins,' he said.

Tomba is under pressure - not least from his legions of fans, all of them hoping he can make Olympic history on the closing day of the Games. The Italian is aiming for a third consecutive Alpine ski gold medal, an unprecedented achievement. With four slalom wins this season on the World Cup, he is pinning his hopes on the discipline. 'Just leave me alone in peace until Sunday,' he said. 'Then maybe I can do something good.'

The Kringla piste claimed a fair share of big-name victims, putting paid to the notion that Scandinavian mountains are a tamer version of the Alps. The poor Games luck of the five-times World Cup holder, Marc Girardelli, continued with the Luxembourg skier crashing in the morning session. Other victims included the 1992 Olympic combined bronze medallist, Steve Locher of Switzerland, and Ole Kristian Furuseth of Norway.

Joining Tomba on the sidelines in the second run was William Gaylord, from Lakenheath, Suffolk. He placed 36th in the first run but went out in the second.

His team-mate Spenser Pession managed a creditable 31st place. 'I expected this course to be a lot harder and I held back instead of attacking,' he said.

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