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Von Gruenigen shares third place

Von Gruenigen secures himself a place on the podium in Sunday's race in Sölden Keystone

Swiss giant slalom world champion Michael von Gruenigen had to share his third place with Swede Fredrik Nyberg in Sunday's giant slalom race in Sölden.

Von Gruenigen, who finished with an overall time of 2’14″82, also achieved the third fastest time in the first run. He completed the second run only three hundredths of a second slower than the overall winner, Frenchman Frederic Covili, and missed the victory only by 32 hundreths of a second overall.

After the race on a sun-baked, demanding course in the Austrian ski resort of Sölden, von Gruenigen said he was content.

“Third place is always what you’re looking for in the first race. I cannot complain,” he said.

“Obviously my main goal this year is to win gold at the Olympics. But I also want to win the World Cup title,” said the Swiss who lost his giant slalom crown to Austrian Hermann Maier the previous two years.

Nyberg’s shared third place was proof of a comeback. Last winter the Swede won a super-G and took three third places in giant slalom.

However, his season stopped early when he was injured in a fall on his way to a pre-race inspection in Kitzbuehel in January.

“I was so relaxed coming here. I didn’t expect to do so well. I haven’t raced since January, so to be back on the podium after such a long break is wonderful,” he said.

Covili beat favourites

Covili’s time of 2’15″50, which resulted in his first World Cup win, pushed the Austrian Stephan Eberharter, the number two in the overall World Cup standing last year, into second place by 0.09 seconds.

The 25-year old Covili was a surprise bronze medallist in the giant slalom at the world championships in St Anton in February, but the Frenchman had never before made it on to the podium in a World Cup event.

In the absence of Maier, who won every World Cup title except for the slalom last season, the two favourites von Gruenigen and Eberharter had been anticipating more wins this season.

Maier is currently recovering from a motorbike accident in August, which might prevent him from defending his giant slalom and super-G titles at the Olympic Games in Salt Lake City in February.

Four Swiss racers made it into the top 20 of Sunday’s race. Didier Defago came 14th with a time of 2’15″64, Didier Cuche finished 17th and Tobias Gruenenfelder came 20th.

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR