Maier wins giant slalom |

Maier wins giant slalom

Daron Rahlves of the United States powers past a gate during the first run of the Men's Giant Slalom at the World Alpine Ski Championships, in Bormio, Italy, Thursday, Feb. 10, 2005. (AP Photo/Thomas Kienzle)

BORMIO, Italy ” Hermann Maier won the giant slalom Thursday for his first gold medal at the Alpine Skiing World Championships since 1999, two years before he nearly lost his leg in a motorcycle accident.

Another Austrian, Benjamin Raich, finished second, and Daron Rahlves of the United States won the bronze.

Defending champion Bode Miller needed two stitches for a cut on his chin after he lost control on the first run and slammed into an advertising banner in a race postponed Wednesday when Italian TV workers went on strike.

Maier covered the two runs down the Stelvio course in 2 minutes, 50.41 seconds for his first world title since winning the downhill and super giant slalom at Vail, Colo., six years ago. He also won those events at the 1998 Nagano Olympics.

“This is a very important victory for me, especially on this course which is very, very difficult,” Maier said. “Daron was super on the first run.”

Maier missed the 2002 Olympics after crashing his motorcycle in August 2001 in which he broke his right leg. He returned for the 2003 season and captured his fourth World Cup overall title.

At these worlds, Maier finished fourth in the opening super-G and 17th in the downhill. This was his fourth top-three giant slalom finish this season. His only World Cup victory was last month in the super-G in Kitzbuehel, Austria.

Raich had the fastest second run Thursday to move up from seventh place and finished 0.25 seconds behind his teammate. Rahlves, who led after the first run, wound up 0.68 back. The downhill silver medalist posted his best giant slalom result.

“I’m certainly happy to get a medal but I’m still disappointed. I knew I’d have to go for it, but I was too round, too loose at the top,” Rahlves said, referring to his second run. “But the best thing for me today is to know my GS is there.”

Miller, the overall World Cup leader, ran into difficulty on the steepest section of the course and raised his right ski high in an attempt to regain his balance. He got twisted around and slammed into the ad, throwing up a spray of snow.

Giant slalom is Miller’s best event and, after winning the downhill and super-G titles last week, he was trying to become the first man to claim three golds at a world championships since Jean-Claude Killy won four in 1968. In that year, the Olympics and worlds were combined in Grenoble, France.

Miller also skied out early in the first run of last week’s combined race. He will have a chance for his third gold in Saturday’s slalom and the new team event that will conclude the championships Sunday.

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