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LENZERHEIDE, Switzerland -- Norway's Aksel Lund Svindal held off Austrian Benjamin Raich to win Alpine skiing's overall World Cup title on Sunday in one of the most exciting finishes for years.
The 24-year-old kept his nerve in the season-ending slalom in the face of a fierce Raich charge to become the first Norwegian to claim the sport's most prestigious prize since Lasse Kjus in 1999.
Raich blazed to the victory he needed to keep his overall title chances alive in one minute 39.78 seconds, beating fellow-Austrian Mario Matt by nearly a second.
However, down in the finish area double world champion Svindal was already celebrating, safe in the knowledge that the points he needed to stay above the Austrian were in the bag.
It could not have been any closer though. With only the top 15 skiers scoring points at the World Cup finals, Svindal crept into 15th.
Had Svindal been one place lower, Raich would have retained the title he won last season. Instead, the Austrian finished with a total of 1,255 points, 13 behind Svindal.
"I was so nervous....when I was only fifth on the leaderboard after my run I thought I would lose it...but then I found out that I was in the top 15 and I couldn't believe it," Svindal told reporters.
"I knew that Benni would be fighting to the end...I didn't really want to celebrate too early. The overall World Cup is the biggest thing in ski racing, I really enjoyed the fight."
The 29-year-old Raich at least had the consolation of snatching the World Cup slalom title from Matt.
He began the final race 15 points behind the world champion but the 100 he gained for victory leapfrogged him to the top of the standings by five points.
There was a lot at stake for me to day, the overall and slalom World Cup...I just gave my best," Raich said. "For me to win the slalom cup is a big achievement. Aksel is just so consistent and he is a worthy successor of mine," he added.
Coming into the final four races of the season here in this Swiss resort, Svindal was third in the standings behind Raich and Switzerland's Didier Cuche.
However a stunning hat-trick of victories on the Silvano Beltrametti course in the downhill, super-G and giant slalom rocketed him past his rivals and put him in the driving seat before the slalom, his weakest event.
A conservative first run left him in 12th place, and although he lost more ground in the second leg, the Norwegian was rewarded for a spectacular end to the season.
Just a month ago at the world championships in Are, Sweden he won golds medals in giant slalom and downhill.
Svindal finished 15th, which was just good enough to deprive Raich of the overall prize.