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Svindal claims overall crown

NORWAY'S Aksel Lund Svindal won his second overall men's World Cup title yesterday after Benjamin Raich, his only rival, straddled a gate in the final slalom of the season in Are, Sweden.

The race was won by former world champion Mario Matt of Austria, who saved a disappointing winter with his 12th career win.

Matt, who was world champion on the same piste, won in one minute and 45.71 seconds, ahead of Frenchmen Julien Lizeroux and Jean-Baptiste Grange.

Grange, who missed out on the World Cup slalom title last season on the last day, took his revenge by winning the crystal globe this time.

Svindal led Raich by two points at the start of the first leg of the final race of the season and only needed to finish ahead of the Austrian to secure his second overall crown.

Raich, who won Friday's giant slalom, could afford to play it safe but in a last twist in one of the closest World Cup battles in years, the Austrian crashed out within reach of his second title.

The Austrian finished runner-up for the third year in succession after being overall World Cup champion in 2006. "It's more than I could dream for but luck was on my side this time. It's a fantastic comeback which will take time to fully appreciate," Svindal said.

The Norwegian, overall champion in 2007, missed nearly all of last season after a crash in a downhill in Beaver Creek in December 2007.

American Bode Miller took over in 2008 but he shunned the Are finals to be with his baby daughter and ended up 15th overall.

Svindal, 26, staged a sensational comeback this season by winning three races, the first one on the very course on which he crashed a year before, and the super-combined world title in Val d'Isere, France.

To make matters worse for Raich, Svindal also failed to finish yesterday's first run.

"There's nothing to say. I skied well, I did not take any risks. But in a slalom, everything can collapse so quickly. It will take me a while to recover from this," said Raich, 31.

Svindal, who also took the super-G globe, won overall with 1,009 points to Raich's 1,007. Swiss Didier Cuche was third on 919 points.

The winning margin was the smallest in World Cup history and the winning total for Svindal was the lowest ever. Frenchman Luc Alphand set the previous lowest point total in 1997 when he collected 1,130 points to win the overall crown.

Grange was relieved after an up and down season in which he won two slaloms but failed to deliver at home in the world championships.

"I skied exactly the same as I did last year in Bormio (Italy), aggressively, but this time it worked."

Later, Tanja Poutiainen of Finland finished second behind Tina Maze of Slovenia in the women's giant slalom finale to clinch the World Cup title in the discipline.

Maze, who led after the opening run, had a winning time of 2 minutes, 27.53 seconds. Poutiainen was a distant second, 1.12 behind.

Manuela Moelgg of Italy finished third, 1.39 behind.

Overall champion Lindsey Vonn of the US fell and missed a gate and didn't qualify for the second run.


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