Austrians seeking first gold

Tuesday, February 13th 2007, 2:30 pm
By: News On 6

ARE, Sweden (AP) _ The first Norwegian to win the downhill at a world championships now is focusing on the goal he had coming into the event: winning Wednesday's giant slalom title.

Aksel Lund Svindal, who leads the World Cup overall and discipline standings after winning a GS and posting two other top-three results this season, could become the third Norwegian skier to win a giant slalom world title _ joining Lasse Kjus (1999) and Kjetil Andre Aamodt (1993).

``Coming here, I felt the GS was my best chance at a medal,'' Svindal said. ``I still think it's my best event.''

Among those expected to challenge Svindal are Bode Miller and Olympic champion Benjamin Raich.

Miller has not won a medal in three events so far at the world championships, but remains optimistic.

``I haven't skied it forever, but we're going to get some training the next few days and hopefully we'll figure some stuff out,'' the American said on Sunday. ``The last races, I was there. We just had really tough conditions. I'm definitely ready to compete.''

Austria's men have only two silvers so far in Are, one from Raich in the combined and the other from Fritz Strobl in the super-giant slalom, and are pinning their hopes on Raich in the remaining races. He struggled in the giant slalom early this season, but won the last World Cup GS before the championships.

``There's been a lot of talk how the power team has no gold, but I feel relaxed. I have my silver,'' Raich said. ``We have two medals and the worlds are not a wishing contest. You can't just wish for it to happen.''

The two-time World Cup giant slalom champion is looking for the only major GS title missing from his resume. Raich came close at the last worlds in 2005 at Bormio, Italy, where he claimed silver.

``There are a lot of arguments supporting my winning a medal in GS,'' said Raich, who won the giant slalom in Are last year at the World Cup finals.

The defending champion is Austrian teammate Hermann Maier, who also won the event at the 1998 Olympics. But the ``Herminator'' has struggled in the GS since his 2001 motorcycle accident that nearly cost him a leg. His last giant slalom victory came two years ago when he shocked the field by winning at Bormio.

``I have to make something impossible possible,'' Maier said. ``I'm even more of an outsider than in Bormio.''