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Stechert stuns Vonn to take downhill race

LITTLE-KNOWN German Gina Stechert stole the show from downhill world champion Lindsey Vonn to snatch her first World Cup victory by 0.01 seconds yesterday.

Stechert, 21, clocked one minute and 59.94 seconds in the Italian resort of Tarvisio, finishing ahead of American World Cup leader Vonn and Sweden's Anja Paerson.

The German had no significant results coming into the race although fourth place in the Lake Louise downhill won by Vonn earlier this season indicated she could compete close to the very best.

"Not only have I won, which is something I had never even dreamed of, but I beat Lindsey Vonn, who has won so many races and titles. I have no clue how this happened," the skier from Oberstdorf told reporters.

Stechert's victory confirmed the current fine form of the German women, who have won the last four races in the Alpine skiing calendar.

Kathrin Hoelzl won the giant slalom world title in Val d'Isere, France, while Maria Riesch won slalom gold at the worlds and a World Cup super-combined on Friday.

"Maybe the German wind that has been blowing since the world championships pushed me a little bit," Stechert said.

The World Cup program in Tarvisio continues with a super-G today and Vonn, who has been hampered by a hand injury since cutting her thumb opening a bottle of champagne at the worlds, made it clear she was out for revenge.

"My hand might explain why I'm only second but I'm determined to win tomorrow. I didn't come here to finish second especially as this weekend is a crucial one to take a commanding lead in the World Cup standings," she said.

Overall, Vonn has 1,274 points and leads Riesch by 207.

In Sestriere, Italy, Swiss Didier Cuche built on his world championship success to win his first World Cup race of the season in a giant slalom yesterday.

Crowned champion in the super-G and silver-medalist in the downhill at the worlds, Cuche clocked 2:49.57 to earn the ninth World Cup win of his career, only the second in a giant slalom.

The versatile Swiss team leader, 34, finished 0.66 ahead of Austrian Stephan Goergl, who had not reached a podium for three years. World silver medalist Benjamin Raich, another Austrian, was third, 0.89 off the pace on the 2006 Turin Olympic course.


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