Greber captures his first World Cup victory

Friday, December 28th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

BORMIO, Italy (AP) _ Christian Greber clinched his first career World Cup victory Friday as he led an Austrian 1-2-3 sweep in the first of back-to-back downhill races in this Alpine resort.

The 29-year-old Austrian mastered the bumpy Stelvio course in one minute. 54.33 seconds, edging Fritz Strobl, the fastest skier in Thursday's training run, by .46 seconds. World Cup leader Stephan Eberharter finished third, .68 back, stretching his lead in the overall standings.

Eberharter piled up 640 points after 14 races, 220 points ahead of Bode Miller of the United States. Didier Cuche of Switzerland is third with 383 points.

Miller, a specialist in gate events, did not compete in Bormio. He will be back action in a giant slalom and slalom at Adelboden, Switzerland, on Jan. 5-6.

Swiss Franco Cavegn was the first non-Austrian finisher in fourth place. He trailed Greber by .72 seconds.

Italy's Kristian Ghedina, winner of a World Cup downhill at Val Gardena on Dec. 14, came in fifth. World super-G champion Daron Rahlves of the United States was sixth, his best result of the season.

Greber, whose previous best World Cup finish had been third place here last year, put in a daring run on the 2,913-meter long course covered with man-made snow, reaching speeds of up to 120 kph. He led in split times and at the finish line.

Greber's win was the fifth consecutive for Austria in World Cup downhills at Bormio since 1997.

The Austrian team had five skiers within the top 14, despite being decimated by injuries. Greber only got his place on the national squad because stars Hermann Maier and Hannes Trinkl are sidelined.

Maier, the reigning World Cup champion, is recovering from leg injuries suffered in a motorcycle accident last August and is unlikely to be back for the Salt Lake City Olympics in February.

Greber, who finished within the top ten in the previous three speed races this season but never reached the podium, said Friday's win at one of his favorite courses did not come as a surprise to him.

``However, it still looks like a Christmas tale, after I lost my place on the Austrian team last spring and I had to keep up training alone, with the help of my father,'' Greber said. ``I needed to achieve this result.''

Hans Knauss, starting with the No. 24 bib, edged his Austrian teammate by five hundredths of a second at an intermediate time but missed a gate in a difficult section of the bottom part of the course, missing out on an almost certain podium finish.

Eberharter, who captured three wins this season _ two in downhill and one in Super-G _ said he was pleased with his third place in what he described as a very tough race.

``I made a bad mistake at mid course and I lost some speed. I have a good feeling at the moment and I can have another chance tomorrow. I can go faster,'' Eberharter said.

Other top finishers included Swiss Bruno Kernen, seventh, and Norway's Kjetil Andre Aamodt, eighth.

Chad Fleischer of the United States placed 16th, Canada's Ed Podivinski was 29th, and American Jakub Fiala finished 40th.

Italian organizers increased security measures for Friday's race. In response to a horrible crash in the season's opening downhill at Val d'Isere, in which Swiss skier Silvano Beltrametti was paralyzed from the waist down, four rows of safety nets were put up along the most difficult sections.

Blue signs on the snow indicated the ideal line in the shady parts of the course, and organizers, who shortened the course by 300 meters, also agreed not to pour water to make the course icy and faster.

Friday's race replaced a downhill canceled in Beaver Creek, Colorado, earlier this month. A second downhill is scheduled here for Saturday.