SHIGA KOGEN, Japan (March 10) - Olympic slalom champion Benjamin Raich of Austria all but clinched the overall World Cup title Friday, winning a World Cup slalom while Ted Ligety (Park City, UT) finished fifth.
Raich had a two-run time of 1:36.66 with national hero Akira Sasaki finishing second in 1:36.83. Canadian Thomas Grandi completed the podium (1:37.17) and teammate Michael Janyk was fourth. With five races remaining, Raich has 1,260 points to 831 for teammate Michael Walchhofer and 750 for Hermann Maier, but Walchhofer seldom races slalom - he's not in Japan - and Maier never skis SL.
No. 4 in the points is defending overall champion Bode Miller (Bretton Woods, NH) at 748 points, but he's not in Japan, either, so Raich gained 100 points on closest competitors - leaving only Walchhofer with a mathematical chance of catching him.
Ligety, third in the first run, finished in 1:37.54 while fellow Olympian Jimmy Cochran (Keene, NH), the only other American to qualify for the second run, failed to finish his final run.
The slalom was the first of two races on the 1998 Olympic hill. After Saturday's slalom, the tour heads to World Cup Finals March 15-19 in Aare, Sweden. The U.S. Alpine Championships will be held March 25-30 at Sugarloaf, Maine.
MEN'S ALPINE WORLD CUP
Shiga Kogen, PN - March 10, 2006
1. Benjamin Raich, Austria, 1:36.66
2. Akira Sasaki, Japan, 1:36.83
3. Thomas Grandi, Canada, 1:37.17
4. Michael Janyk, Canada, 1:37.19
5. Ted Ligety, Park City, Utah, 1:37.54
Jimmy Cochran, Keene, N.H.
Did not qualify for 2nd run:
Chip Knight, Stowe, Vt.; Tom Rothrock, Cashmere, Wash.
For complete results:http://www.fis-ski.com/uk/604/1228.html?event_id=16995&cal_suchsector=AL