Von Gruenigen wins giant slalom title with blistering run
Updated: Thursday February 08, 2001 12:56 PM
ST. ANTON, Austria (AP) -- They were tied in fourth place going into the decisive run, and while Michael von Gruenigen rose to the challenge, charging to the gold medal, Hermann Maier flopped again and stayed where he didn't want to be -- in fourth.
Having evenly split six World Cup wins between them this season, Maier and von Gruenigen were billed as one of the feature showdowns of the championship.
Von Gruenigen, enjoying a consistent season, never finishing lower than fourth, was eager to regain dominance in a discipline Maier had taken over last year.
Maier, with just as many victories this season though his other results haven't been that good, was hungry for the win, having failed to defend his downhill and super-G titles earlier in the championship.
"It wasn't very easy today," von Gruenigen said. "The duel between Hermann and me was widely talked about and very much justified.
"It wasn't easy for him today. Yesterday there was the downhill and I could prepare," added von Gruenigen, who only races the technical disciplines. "I was able to concentrate and prepare just for the giant slalom and the slalom. That's an advantage for me. Hermann has to concentrate on more events."
The Swiss appeared to have lost his chance at gold after the opening run, sharing fourth place with Maier, a hefty .36 seconds behind the leader Kjetil-Andre Aamodt of Norway.
"The first run was a good run, not an exceptional run because there was great visibility," von Gruenigen said. "When I saw his face I knew he wasn't happy with his result so I knew there would be one or two skiers who'd be able to go faster."
The Swiss delivered a blistering second effort to win in a two-run combined time of two minutes, 23.80 seconds, relegating the hopeful Aamodt to second in 2:24.15.
"I am very happy, it was like gold," said the Norwegian ace. "The piste was very soft and it was a close race. Von Gruenigen is the best in giant slalom and he deserved to win.
"I knew I had to go for it and be aggressive, but with this soft piste and the bumps, you never know."
It marked Aamodt's 15th medal at a world championship or Olympic Games, a record for men. Five of them are golds, another male record.
"I have had a lot of luck at championships," said a modest Aamodt, who has remained without a World Cup victory this season.
Maier, meanwhile, lost his last chance at a world championship gold medal on home snow, placing fourth in 2:24.19, a slim .01 behind France's Frederic Covili who beat him by a wafer-thin .01 for the bronze.
The Olympic champion in the giant slalom, Maier disappointed optimistic home fans, losing his two world titles in the super-G and the downhill, and flopping in his final contest.
"It didn't go so badly," said a defensive Maier, who placed second in the downhill and third in the super-G. "I was always close to winning."
The victory validated von Gruenigen's decision to continue ski racing. The 31-year-old veteran almost quit after poor results last season, but changed his mind after deciding to switch equipment in May.
"This title confirms my entire career and confirms my decision to continue skiing and confirms my decision to change skis," von Gruenigen said.
Defending champion Kjus, who chose to skip the downhill because of a recurring bronchial problem, had a disappointing campaign, finishing out of the top-5.