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Reichelt, Hoefl-Riesch lead downhill training runs

The Canadian Press

3/12/2013 12:04:52 PM

LENZERHEIDE, Switzerland - The two favourites to win World Cup downhill titles, Aksel Lund Svindal and Tina Maze, had solid practices on Tuesday ahead of their decisive races.

Svindal was sixth in a training run behind Hannes Reichelt of Austria and Maze placed fourth behind Maria Hoefl-Riesch of Germany ahead of the opening races on Wednesday at the season-ending World Cup finals.

Norway's Svindal trailed Reichelt's time of 1 minute, 30.74 seconds on the steep, twisting course by 1.42. Reichelt's teammates, Matthias Mayer and Max Franz, were the only racers within a second of his run.

With 100 points for the race winner on Wednesday, Svindal defends a lead of 58 over defending champion Klaus Kroell of Austria.

"If I'm fourth then I am safe," said Svindal, who can also be overtaken by Italians Dominik Paris and Christof Innerhofer. "But fourth is far from guaranteed when you are up against the best guys in the world."

Svindal, the overall World Cup champion in 2007 and '09 also seeks to close the gap on Austrian Marcel Hirscher, the leader and defending champion who skips downhill and is scheduled to return in the super-G on Thursday.

Slovenia's Maze already has the overall title won, and seeks to end Lindsey Vonn's five-year reign in downhill.

Maze was fourth fastest on the same Silvano Beltrametti course, just 0.31 behind Riesch's 1:34.20. Tina Weirather of Liechtenstein was 0.18 back in second and Austrian Anna Fenninger trailed by 0.28 in third.

With Vonn's season ended by injury, Maze trails her by a single point and need only finish in the top 15 on Wednesday to rise above the American. A forecast for good weather suggests Maze will get the chance.

Still, Hoefl-Riesch and Stacey Cook of the United States, who was 15th fastest on Tuesday, can also win the downhill title.

"I think it would take a perfect storm for me," said Cook, who was twice runner-up to Vonn on a Lake Louise, Alberta, course more suited to her gliding skills. "I'm way further up the rankings than in my life before. So to be where I am is pretty special."