Tomba charges to second title

 

ALBERTO TOMBA, jeered at the start and cheered at the finish, charged to slalom gold and his second title at the Alpine skiing world championships in Sierra Nevada, Spain yesterday.

The Italian star, who had never, won a world championship race before this year, put in a perfect seconds run down the Neveros piste for a combined time of one minute 42.26 seconds to bag the fifth gold of his career.

Austria's Mario Reiter took the silver medal, 0.31 seconds behind the triple Olympic gold medallist, while Switzerland's Michael Von Gruenigen was third in 1:42.81.

Tomba, who won the giant slalom title on Friday, was only sixth after the first leg, won surprisingly by Norway's 1992 Olympic champion Finn-Christian Jagge who has been struggling with his form this season.

But the 29-year-old Italian, who upset the Spanish spectators before his arrival last week when he was reported comparing the Spanish resort to Morocco, had a remarkable second run down the 61-gate course.

As the crowd saw his intermediate time and realised they were witnessing something out of the ordinary, the early whistles which had greeted his departure from the hut were replaced by mounting applause.

"This is one of the best races I have ever run, Tomba declared after the race which closed the two week championships with Italy top of the medals table.

"I was just going for a medal. To win two golds is beyond my wildest dreams.

Italy ended the championships with four gold medals - double the tally of nearest nation Sweden.

Tomba's second gold meant he shared the honours of best skier at the championships with Sweden's Pernilla Wiberg, who won the women's slalom and combined titles.

Tomba won two gold medals at the 1988 Calgary Olympics but he told reporters he considered his two titles in Spain a greater achievement.

"I think this is an even bigger achievement. These are medals I had to really work and suffer for," said Tomba.

He said his first run had been tough and he had not taken any chances. "I didn't feel like taking any risks but I had nothing to lose in the second run. The course was much more open then."

Von Gruenigen, the World Cup giant slalom champion, said he had just been looking for a "good solid run" after finishing fifth in the first leg but had not succeeded.

"With the mistake I made on the second run I was lucky to get the bronze. I have never skied so aggressively in my life," said the Swiss who also won the bronze in the giant slalom.

"I would normally prefer the gold but I'm happy with this one. In the giant slalom I had to win a medal. Here, this other medal is a bonus."