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Von Gruenigen Conquers GS
Men's Giant Slalom: Sierra Nevada, Spain
March 14, 1999

  • Men's DH: Kjus is Downhill Champion
  • Women's DH: Meissnitzer Wins Final DH
  • Men's SG: Christian Mayer Blasts Super-G
  • Women's SL: Slalom and Super-G Cancelled
  • Women's GS: Anita Wachter Edges Out Favorites
  • Men's SL: Stangassinger Wins Race and Cup
  • Men's GS: Von Gruenigen Conquers Last Race

    Kjus is overall champion
    Norway's Lasse Kjus and Switzerland's Michael von Gruenigen celebrated their greatest successes of the season today in Sierra Nevada at last giant slalom of the World Cup program.

    Switzerland's Von Gruenigen

    The Swiss veteran, von Gruenigen, clinched his third GS World Cup title by winning this race. Kjus conquered his second overall World Cup title with 7th place, only fractions of a second behind the last threat to his overall win, his best friend Kjetil Aamodt. Switzerland's Steve Locher came in 2nd, only 7/100 behind the winner, and Heinz Schilchegger was the only Austrian on the podium in 3rd place in front of teammate Stephan Eberharter.

    "I never thought that I could achieve such a season..."Lasse Kjus

    Kjus was forced to reach his limits in the second run after clocking a distant 15th place in the first run while Aamodt had finished a strong 5th. Kjus had to ski among the top-15 to score World Cup points, and in the second run, Lasse clocked the 2nd fastest time, beating von Gruenigen's second run by more than a second.

    "This has been a dream winter, I never thought that I could achieve such a season," said the 28-year-old skier from Oslo who also clinched five medals during the recent World Championships in Vail.

    "It has been a tough week as Kjetil put great pressure on me since the first day. I hope that we remain friends for many more years," he added.

    In fact Kjus beat his closest rival by only 28 points. Aamodt would have conquered the Crystal Globe with more luck in the last speed events here. He finished 4th in the downhill, only 2/100 of a second behind the podium, and 16th in the super-G after a crash in the upper part of the course.

    But Aamodt was not too upset by his close defeat. "I have fought until the end, but Lasse was again very strong today," Aamodt explained. "I was unlucky in some occasions, but on the other hand Lasse also missed many races because of his bad health. He is a fair winner."
    Kjus kisses the overall cup
    Kjus, who suffered from bronchitis and influenza during the entire season, did not compete in five races because of the flu: Bormio, Flachau, Adelboden and Ofterschwang. He also skipped the trip to Whistler Mountain in December to train at home.

    Fortunately for him, the races were canceled there because of bad weather and his won the make-up downhill in Val Gardena. He won five downhills and a combined during this season, his 10th year on the World Cup tour.

    Three favorites skied out in the first run of today's tough competition: Austria's Hermann Maier, his younger teammate Benjamin Raich and Italy's Patrick Holzer.

    Maier, who won seven events: four super-Gs, two giant slaloms and one downhill, was less consistent this season than last winter. He didn't finish two GS races and he lost many points to the Norwegian duo in Kitzböhel where he crashed in the second race. But he reached his main goal of the winter he coming back with two gold medals from Vail where he captured the super-G and the downhill.

    With a total of 1699 points, the 1992 overall winner Paul Accola from Switzerland is still the greatest World Cup champion in the recent years. Kjus scored a total of 1465 points this year.

    This GS win marks Von Gruenigen's 16th in his career. "It's great to win again the GS World Cup with this great win," he said. "It's also a great feeling to have skied so well on this course where I was 3rd in 1996 during the World Championships. I had to fight harder than in 1996 and 1997 to win this Cup. It was an important goal for me after my disappointing World Championships in Vail."

    The elegant Swiss champion also confirmed his decision to keep on racing next season.

    "I still enjoy it a lot and I feel able to keep on improving," Von Gruenigen explained. His main problem concerns his long time serviceman Arno Walter who is 63 years old. He has been sick this season and couldn't support von Gruenigen as much as usual during the material tests.

    So far, none of the top competitors have planned to give up ski racing besides the 1992 Olympic champion Patrick Ortlieb who suffered a terrible crash in January. Next year's World Cup tour is scheduled to begin in Tignes, France in late October.

    Mountain Zone European Ski Correspondent

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