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Maier closing in on Von Grünigen

Big in Japan: Maier keeps up the pressure on Von Grünigen

(Keystone)

Swiss skier Michael von Grünigen has lost out to Hermann Maier in the latest World Cup giant slalom race and now faces a strong challenge from the Austrian for the overall giant slalom title.

Von Grünigen could have clinched the title on Thursday by finishing ahead of Maier in the Japanese resort of Shigakogen. But a week to the day after being crowned giant slalom world champion in St Anton, Von Grünigen could only manage a disappointing eighth place.

Maier, on the other hand, bounced back from his disappointing performances at the world championships to win the Shigakogen race by more than a second and a half.

Von Grünigen's team-mates completed a miserable day for the Swiss. After winning a bronze medal in St Anton, Paul Accola literally crashed back to earth in Shigakogen, losing control on his second run.

Urs Kälin, Didier Defago and Steve Locher finished in 15th, 16th and 23rd place respectively.

The only Swiss success on Thursday was a partial one, courtesy of Liechtenstein's Marco Büchel. The 29-year-old from Vaduz, who has a Swiss passport and trains with the Swiss squad, took second place behind Maier to record his best finish of the season.

The combined results of Maier and Von Grünigen set up a tight finale in the battle for the giant slalom World Cup title. With just one race to go, Von Grünigen's lead over Maier has been reduced to just 40 points.

To win the title Von Grünigen must either beat Maier at the World Cup finals in Are on March 10, or finish just behind him.

If Maier were to win the deciding race in Sweden with Von Grünigen finishing third, the two men would be level on points but the Austrian would take the title, having won more races.

swissinfo with agencies


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