Maier captures lucky No. 13

Austrian skier equals Stenmark's record for victories in a season

Posted: Sunday, March 11, 2001

ARE, Sweden -- With Swedish great Ingemar Stenmark looking on, Hermann Maier won the giant slalom Saturday for his 13th victory this season, equaling one of skiing's mightiest records.

Maier, who has captured the overall World Cup title three of the last four years, tied the record Stenmark set in 1979.

''I never saw this emotion and celebration before,'' Maier said. ''It was a great day.''

Earlier, Sonja Nef of Switzerland won the last women's slalom of the season, beating Martina Ertl of Germany by .40 seconds.

Stenmark, skiing's strongest gate racer, does not think the record he and Maier share is untouchable.

''I could only ski well in two disciplines,'' the Swede said. ''Today some skiers are more versatile. Maier is a fantastic ski racer. He's got strength, technique and mental toughness.''

Maier covered the Olympia course in 2 minutes, 31.23 seconds, more than a second ahead of runner-up Erik Schlopy of the United States. Schlopy was timed in 2:32.37 to match his best finish of the season. He also was runner-up in Bormio, Italy.

''It was the best race of my life,'' Schlopy said. ''I'll always remember it.''

Maier has 41 victories for his career, and this was among his most satisfying.

''I've had so many problems with the GS,'' the Austrian said. ''It's wonderful.''

One more World Cup final remains this season, the slalom in Are on Sunday, but Maier doesn't compete in that discipline.

One of Maier's rare mishaps this season was a disqualification at Val d'Isere in December. He was barred from the giant slalom for studying the course too long.

''That was very frustrating,'' Maier said. ''Today I was very concentrated. I knew before the second run that Michael had some problems.''

Michael von Gruenigen of Switzerland, needing at least second place to win the GS title, nearly skied out six gates from the finish. He recovered but lost time and wound up fourth in 2:32.83. Third went to Benjamin Raich of Austria in 2:32.51.

Maier has won four of his last five starts in Norway and Sweden. In addition to the overall crown, he won the downhill title in Norway last weekend. On Friday, he wrapped up the super-G title in Are.

That race was called off because of fog and gave Maier an opportunity to test his giant slalom skis.

''I skied three times with my GS skis and it helped me very much,'' Maier said.

With 41 wins, Maier moved past Pirmin Zurbriggen of Switzerland and is fourth on the World Cup list headed by Stenmark with 86 wins (46 GS, 40 slaloms).

The Swede won all 10 giant slalom races, including one in Are, and three slaloms in 1979. Maier won more than 50 percent of the races he entered this season. Stenmark won 13 of 20 races 22 years ago.

Maier led the final GS standings with 622 points. Von Gruenigen had 612 and Schlopy was third with 350.

''I achieved my goal of 400 points and I got third in the GS standings, passing three people,'' Schlopy said. ''That's what made it so great.''

Ertl had a combined time of 1:50.38 in registering the 10th World Cup win of her career and second in the slalom.

Anja Paerson of Sweden, the world slalom champion, was third, .01 behind the runner-up.

Janica Kostelic of Croatia finished 11th and extended her overall lead to 67 points over Renate Goetschl of Austria, who skied out in the first run. Kostelic, winner of eight of the nine slaloms this season, has already clinched the slalom title.

One race remains, the giant slalom on Sunday.

Kristina Koznick of the United States, who won a night slalom in Are in 1998 for her first World Cup win, was 12th among 17 finishers.

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