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WORLD SPORT

Austrian Raich claims golden glory

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Raich produced a stunning second run to take the gold.

SESTRIERE, Italy -- Austria's Benjamin Raich grabbed his first gold medal at the Winter Olympics with a storming second run to win the men's giant slalom on Monday.

Pre-Games favorite Raich came from fourth after the first leg to set an unbeatable combined time of two minutes 35 seconds.

Joel Chenal of France took a surprise silver with Raich's illustrious teammate Hermann Maier winning the bronze.

First leg leader Francois Bourque succumbed to the pressure of leadership, but the Canadian still finished a creditable fourth.

Much of the early attention on the second run centered on colorful American star Bode Miller, back in 12th after the first time down.

Miller, still without a medal at the Torino Games, produced a second leg performance in keeping with his talents to set an early target time of two minutes 36.06 seconds.

He looked set for a possible medal until Norway's Atle Svindal exactly matched his combined time. They eventually finished tied sixth.

Raich proceeded to take the lead with an impeccable second run, particularly powerful in the mid-section.

Maier, still shrugging off the effects of a flu bug, weakened on the bottom half of the course to finish 0.16 seconds back, with Chenal then beating his time to edge him for the silver medal.

It is a sweet truimph for Raich, who skied out on the second leg of the slalom while leading the combined event at the Torino Games.

He leads both the giant slalom and overall World Cup standings this season.

"I have wanted to win an Olympic race since I was a child," said Raich, who fell to the ground in relief when the last skier came past the post and his title was secured.

"I am so relieved."

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