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Canada's Hudec fifth in World Cup super-G, third in standings

The Canadian Press

2/25/2012 12:16:32 PM

CRANS-MONTANA, Switzerland -- Canada's Jan Hudec raced to fifth place in a World Cup super-G race Saturday, nearly claiming his second podium finish in as many days.

The 30-year-old from Calgary, who was second in Friday's super-G, made a couple of small mistakes to finish just 24-hundredths of a second out of the medals.

"I'm disappointed I missed the podium today," said Hudec. "I really felt like I had a chance. After losing time on the bottom (Friday), I really wanted to make sure I was fighting the whole way down.

"I did that, but I ended up making a few mistakes. I'm still satisfied with my approach and my skiing."

Austrian veteran Benjamin Raich got his first World Cup victory in more than two years, while Adrien Theaux of France was second, and pre-race favourite Didier Cuche of Switzerland finished third.

"I never gave up and that is very important, if you are a sportsman or in life," Raich said.

Hudec's result extended Canada's recent hot streak, and saw the veteran climb to third in the overall super-G World Cup standings.

Conditions deteriorated as the race progressed and visibility became an issue. Hudec -- nicknamed "Panda Bear" after the character from the movie "Kung Fu Panda" -- said he had a clear sight of the course the whole way down.

"Panda Bear did a good job today. A really good job," said speed coach Johno McBride. "Any time you are in the top five you are a contender for the steps and he was today. When you make a couple of little mistakes on a day like today, there were not that many opportunities to make up speed."

Erik Guay of Mont-Tremblant, Que., was 13th, while Ben Thomsen of Invermere, B.C., was 42nd.

Raich showed that all his technical skills have survived a serious knee injury one year ago, mastering a tough middle section as he clocked one minute 34.37 seconds on the Nationale course. Theaux finished 0.24 seconds back, and Cuche trailed Raich by 0.36.

"After my accident last year and my injury, and after the two years without victory, it's great," Raich said. "I was sure that it was possible (to win again) but you never know. I worked really hard."

Cuche, who won Friday's super-G when Raich was third, praised his old rival who was criticized by some Austrian media over his early-season results.

"Nobody had enough patience to let him do what he is able to do," Cuche said. "But with Benni you can be sure that if he has no trouble, no pain, he will be back sooner or later."

Cuche helped attract 23,000 spectators to see him race in Switzerland for the final time this weekend before retiring.

Swiss teammate Beat Feuz, who is nursing knee pain, was 10th and missed another chance to take the overall standings lead from Austrian Marcel Hirscher.

Hirscher, defending overall champion Ivica Kostelic of Croatia and Feuz, are separated by just 15 points. Hirscher sat out Saturday's race to prepare for his specialist giant slalom event on Sunday, and Kostelic is expected to race again in two weeks after knee surgery.

Bode Miller was sidelined for a second straight day to help his left knee heal after undergoing minor knee surgery in the United States this week. Miller could race the GS on Sunday.

Raich's 36th World Cup victory, sixth on the all-time list ahead of Miller, was his first in super-G.

The former World Cup overall champion, who will be 34 on Tuesday, last won in December 2009 at a super-combined event at Val d'Isere, France.

Raich's injury sustained at the 2011 World Championships in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany, ended his season one year ago, but he has come back strongly since January. His three podium finishes this season have all been in Switzerland.

Despite supporting Cuche, the knowledgeable Swiss crowd generously applauded Raich when he crossed the line after an impressively clean run on the soft snow.

Cuche lost his ideal line after a jump and was slowed by venturing into soupy snow at the side of the course.

"I knew that I was able to win again but you have to bring it from the top to the bottom. It cost me all the speed because I had to push into the soft snow," the 37-year-old Swiss star said.

However, Cuche closed to within seven points of super-G leader Aksel Lund Svindal of Norway, who placed ninth for the second consecutive day.

Two more super-G races are scheduled next weekend at Kvitfjell, Norway.

-- With files from The Associated Press.