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Austria sign off with Pranger gold
(China Daily)
Updated: 2009-02-17 16:04

VAL D'ISERE, France: Manfred Pranger earned Austria's men's team their only gold medal at the Alpine Skiing World Championships by winning the closing slalom on Sunday.

Pranger clocked a combined winning time of one minute 44.17 seconds down the steep, icy Bellevarde piste to save his ski-mad nation from the embarrassment of leaving the worlds without a men's title for the first time since 1997.

The 31-year-old, who posted his first World Cup win in nearly four years in a slalom in Wengen last month, set the fastest time in the first run and held his nerve in the second to present Austria with their third successive world slalom title.

"I'd been dreaming about this for so long," said Pranger, who became a father two weeks ago.

"After all I've been through, this is fantastic," added the Austrian, whose career has been constantly hampered by injuries over the past four years.

"First a son and now this. Life couldn't be better."

France's Julien Lizeroux thrilled the 30,000 crowd attending the final event of the fortnight at the French Alps resort by finishing 0.31 seconds back to win his second silver medal of the championships after one in the super combined.

"Two silvers is great but I can't help feeling a bit disappointed," said Lizeroux, who posted his first World Cup win in a slalom in Kitzbuehel last month.

"Becoming a world champion at home would have been so special."

Michael Janyk was a surprise bronze medallist, 1.53 seconds behind the winner, giving Canada more to celebrate a year before the Winter Olympics in Vancouver after John Kucera's shock victory in the blue-riband downhill.

"This is just great with Vancouver coming," Janyk said after becoming Canada's first slalom medallist at a world championships.

The treacherous, rock-hard course ruined the hopes of several favorites, among them Italy's Giorgio Rocca, Austrian Reinfried Herbst and American Bode Miller, who all skied out in the first run.

Olympic champion Benjamin Raich of Austria and slalom World Cup leader Jean-Baptiste Grange of France suffered the same fate in the second run.

"It's a very tricky course," Pranger said after the first run. "I'm not surprised so many went out."

Switzerland top the final medals with six medals, followed by Austria with five and the United States with three.


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