Neureuther wins slalom for 1st WC victory
KITZBUEHEL, Austria – Felix Neureuther of Germany earned his first career World Cup victory on Sunday, winning a slalom that Bode Miller skipped to rest a sore ankle.
The 25-year-old Neureuther finished in a two-run combined time of 1 minute, 37.35 seconds on the icy Ganslern course. His victory came 31 years after his father won here as well.
“A very special feeling, the best day of my life,” said Neureuther, who had finished in the top three six times before. “Being son of a successful sports man has always added to the pressure on me.”
Julien Lizeroux of France, last year’s winner of the Kitzbuehel slalom, was 0.39 seconds behind and Giuliano Razzoli in Italy was third, 0.99 off the pace.
Miller didn’t race because his right ankle hurt too much after prerace warmups. The U.S. ski team said he was expected to start at a night slalom in nearby Schladming on Tuesday.
“Bode wanted to ski fast in Wengen, in Kitzbuehel and at the Olympics,” U.S. team spokesman Doug Haney said. “So now he is obviously building up towards Vancouver.”
Miller hurt the same ankle in December during a game of volleyball with teammates at Val d’Isere, France.
Neureuther’s victory was the first World Cup win by a German man since Alois Vogl took a slalom five years ago in Wengen, Switzerland.
“I have been fighting for this for such a long time. I desperately wanted my first win,” Neureuther said. “It has not been an easy season for me, I was down mentally but kept fighting. I got a new pair of skies and they are really great.”
Ivica Kostelic of Croatia placed seventh to win the classic combined title after Saturday’s downhill.
Benjamin Raich of Austria finished fourth in the combined event and won the crystal globe in the discipline. He also went ahead in the overall standings again, leading Carlo Janka of Switzerland 853 to 829.
Ted Ligety was the top American in 23rd and Nolan Kasper was 27th.
Ligety, who was 1.53 seconds back after the opening leg, attacked in his second run but was thrown off-course and finished more than six seconds behind Neureuther.
“It felt really bumpy and hard the whole way down,” Ligety said. “It wasn’t very easy in the middle part, for sure.”
Lizeroux moved to the top of the slalom standings ahead of Reinfried Herbst of Austria, who has won two races this season. Herbst led after the opening run, but came to a standstill in the second after almost missing a gate and finished 7.83 back.
“It feels the same like last year,” said Herbst, who also squandered a commanding lead in the 2009 Kitzbuehel slalom in his second run. “It’s bitter, but I am happy that the next slalom in Schladming is only two days away.”
Herbst needed treatment for a sore back before the race, but said his physical problems did not affect his second run.
“No, I felt OK before the start,” Herbst said. “I don’t know what exactly went wrong.”
After the night slalom on Tuesday, two giant slaloms and a slalom are scheduled for Friday through Sunday in Kranjska Gora, Slovenia. These will be the final men’s World Cup races before the Vancouver Olympics.
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