WHISTLER, British Columbia (Reuters) - Hannes Reichelt posted his first career World Cup giant slalom win on Saturday, capping a dominant display by the Austrian men on courses that will be used for the 2010 Vancouver Olympics.
Reichelt, runner-up in Thursday’s super-G, held his form on a deteriorating layout to clock a two-run winning time of two minutes, 37.43 seconds ahead of Switzerland’s Didier Cuche on 2:37.82.
Austria’s Olympic giant slalom champion Benjamin Raich, the leader after the first leg, completed the podium taking third in 2:37.87 to close the gap on American Bode Miller in the battle for the overall World Cup title.
Ted Ligety, the Olympic combined champion, posted the top U.S. finish crossing fourth followed by John Kucera of Canada.
“Yesterday I was beaten by 3/100ths of a second and I didn’t want that to happen again so I had to push as hard as I could,” Reichelt told reporters after recording his third career World Cup victory.
“To win a giant slalom is much more difficult than winning my two super-Gs so this is a wonderful surprise.”
The Austrians will no doubt be looking forward to their return to Whistler Mountain in two years for the Vancouver Winter Games after winning both the Olympic test events staged on the courses and claiming four of six places on the podium.
”We will happily take these results,“ Austrian alpine ski chief Hans Pum told reporters. ”This mountain has been good for us.
“A lot can change in two years but it is always better to come back here and know you have won than to come back and know you have had problems.”
Reichelt’s victory was the first by an Austrian this season in the giant slalom that has produced six different winners in as many races leaving the battle for the discipline title wide open.
With two races to run, Raich, despite having yet to post a win, took over top spot in the standings with 308 points followed by Ligety with 285 and Italy’s Manfred Moelgg on 267.
Swiss Daniel Albrecht, who had led the standings when the day began, slipped to fourth with 258 after skidding off course three gates from the finish of his second run.
Miller’s seventh place finish was enough to allow him to maintain his hold on top spot in the overall ranking with 1,103 points but Raich was able to trim the American’s advantage to 45 points with Cuche lurking just 105 points adrift.
”Everyone likes to be on top and that was my goal but I made a good race and I‘m third and happy,“ said Raich. ”But as far as the overall it will be very difficult.
“There are more speed events than technical races left and Bode will be very hard to catch.”
The women return to the spotlight on Sunday for a super-combined that will be the last of four Olympic test events on Whistler mountain before skiers return to Europe for the final races of the World Cup season.
Editing by Greg Stutchbury