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Von Grünigen trailing after first run

Von Grünigen was half a second off the lead following the first run

(Keystone)

Swiss skier Michael von Grünigen is lying in joint fourth place with co-favourite Hermann Maier at the halfway stage of the men's world championship giant slalom.

The two men are trailing surprise leader Kjetil Andre Aamodt by more than a third of a second - a gap which Von Grünigen will have to make up in the second run if he is to live up to Switzerland's gold medal expectations.

The 30-year-old from Schönried is seen as the man to beat in the penultimate men's event, having built up a commanding lead in the World Cup giant slalom standings. Maier is the only man who could still overtake Von Grünigen in that competition.

In Thursday's opening run, though, the Swiss star had to watch from the finish area as Aamodt, Austria's Christoph Gruber and Italian outsider Alessandro Roberto all nipped in ahead of him.

One other athlete made a name for himself in the first run, although Win-Jack Pai will not be causing Von Grünigen any concern in the second race.

The skier from Chinese Taipei followed in the tradition of British ski-jumper Eddie "the Eagle" Edwards and Equatorial Guinea's swimmer Eric "the Eel" Moussambani - falling several times but refusing to give up. Pai eventually crossed the line to huge applause, a mere five minutes off the pace.

by Mark Ledsom


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