SESTRIERE, Italy March 15, 2004 (AP by Andrew Dampf) - Hermann Maier's long journey back to skiing took him all the way to the top of his sport again. Maier (racing in his first full season since nearly losing his right leg in a motorcycle accident) won his fourth overall World Cup title.
``It is amazing,'' said Maier, who also clinched the World Cup super-G title. ``At the start of the season, my goal was to finish the season to race as many races as possible.''
Maier was not the same incredibly dominant skier he was before the accident in August 2001, but his prowess and courage in the speed events propelled him to his fourth overall victory.
He won two downhill races and captured three super-Gs, finishing on the podium in all seven races to secure the discipline globe as well.
``I am not 100 percent the Hermann Maier who was skiing in the past,'' Maier said. ``I am no longer winning with a 1.5-second reserve. But I can tell you 100 percent of what I am now was used to win this overall title.''
Maier, who won three overall titles before his accident, took his latest title with a slim 42-point margin ahead of Stephan Eberharter. In the season immediately before his accident, Maier won with a massive 743-point advantage over Eberharter.
``I think everybody's quite surprised the way he's skied with his leg,'' Paerson said. ``I don't think I could ever do that. He's a strong man to fight back and do so well.'' Bode Miller finished fourth, but still won his first crystal World Cup globe by taking the giant slalom trophy. No American man had won any discipline globe since Phil Mahre won the GS title in 1983.
Eberharter, who won the previous two overall titles when Maier was recovering, finished runner-up in the overall but took the downhill title for the third straight season. It could end up being Eberharter's last campaign. The 34-year-old Austrian has been hinting at retirement all season.
``I have always skied with my heart and for pleasure and I've been there 100 percent,'' the 34-year-old Eberharter said. ``If I feel over the summer I should go on with my career, then I will. If not I will quit. The chances are 50-50.'' Paerson's results (five slalom wins and six giant slalom victories) were far stronger than anyone else's, and gave her a 217-point margin ahead of her only real challenger for the overall - Austria's Renate Goetschl.
``I was consistent all season, it was unbelievable,'' said Paerson, the first Swede since Pernilla Wiberg in 1997 to clinch the women's overall title. ``To beat Goetschl, I couldn't believe that going into the season. It's the biggest achievement in my career so far.''
Goetschl, the overall winner in 2001, took the downhill and super-G globes. Anja Paerson won her first slalom race in 1998, and only began to win in GS last season. This season, she also showed some potential for the future in super-G (finishing sixth in the final event here on Thursday) as well as downhill.
At St. Moritz, in her first World Cup downhill, Paerson was fastest in training and was leading the race heading into the final gate when she veered off course.
``Anja had a super season,'' said Goetschl, the 1999-2000 overall winner. ``She proved that she was super consistent. Her development was very impressive.'' Paerson clinched the slalom and giant slaloms long before arriving in Sestriere.
``The slalom this year, I think I benefited from a little luck with some of the other girls not doing so well,'' she said. ``In giant slalom, I just felt very comfortable.'' Croatian technical specialist Janica Kostelic, the previous overall winner, missed the entire season due to a thyroid problem and knee troubles.
Copyright © 2000 The Associated Press