Originally created 02/15/99

Norway's Kjus wins record fifth medal



VAIL, Colo. -- Lasse Kjus made what looked impossible seem effortless.

The unflappable Norwegian captured an unprecedented fifth medal in the World Alpine Ski Championships, finishing runner-up in the slalom to surprise winner Kalle Palander of Finland on Sunday.

Kjus, who became the fourth skier in history to win four medals in a world championship when he won the giant slalom on Friday, set the record with his fifth medal in the concluding event of these championships.

Going a perfect 5-for-5, he also won gold in super-G and silver in downhill and combined.

"Lasse is incredible," said bronze medalist Christian Mayer of Austria. "Five medals in five starts -- what more can you say?"

Toni Sailer (1956), Jean-Claude Killy (1968) and Pirmin Zurbriggen (1987) all won four medals in a championship. But Kjus owns five.

Kjus tied teammate Kjetil Andre Aamodt and Luxembourg's Marc Girardelli for the most medals won in both world championships and Olympics -- 13.

"It's a fantastic feeling," Kjus said. "I can't believe it. It's incredible what has happened. I'm on a roll now."

Austria finished the championships with 13 medals and Norway was next with nine.

Kjus insisted he was "very happy" with his second-place finish in slalom, the best of his career.

"In the second run ... in the steep section, I didn't dare to give my all," he said. "It was so close after the first run that I knew I could easily have ended up in fourth or fifth place."

Kjus led the first run of slalom, holding a margin of .19 seconds over Mayer. Italy's Giorgio Rocca was third, .41 seconds off the pace. Palander stood seventh, .78 seconds behind Kjus.

Palander, starting in the first seed of slalom for the first time after matching his previous career best with a sixth-place finish last month in Kitzbuhel, Austria, had the fastest second run.

His time of 49.92 seconds gave him a combined time of 1 minute, 42.12 seconds. Six subsequent racers couldn't dislodge him from the lead.

Kjus was .76 seconds faster than Palander through the intermediate clocking but lost time on the bottom of the steep, icy course, and his 50.81 second run -- only the eighth fastest -- dropped him to second place at 1:42.23.

When Kjus' time flashed on the scoreboard, a disbelieving Palander danced in the finish area, punching the air with his skis.

It was the first Alpine medal ever for Finland, a country more noted for its Nordic skiing.

"I stood in the start for a minute and got myself together," said Palander, overwhelmed by the feat, his lips quivering after the race. "When I came down, I thought, `OK, maybe a medal.' It must have been the last part where I made up all the time.

"I was hoping for top five. I think that third place is unbelievable. I told my coach after the first run, `Maybe three.' But a gold medal, unbelievable.

"I'm trying to understand this. Maybe tomorrow it will be easier."

Mayer, who was scrubbed from the super-G because of the depth of the Austrian team, held on for the bronze in 1:42.25.

Rocca was fourth in 1:42.33, followed by Austrian rookie Benjamin Raich in 1:42.55.

Austria's Thomas Stangassinger, who leads the World Cup slalom standings this season, charged from 12th place after the first run to finish sixth in 1:42.82. Aamodt rallied from 15th to finish seventh in 1:42.91.

Bode Miller of Franconia, N.H., 30th out of the start house, stood 13th after the first run and wound up eighth in 1:42.94.

Switzerland's Paul Accola was ninth in 1:43.24, and Slovenia's Jure Kosir slipped from fourth to 10th in 1:43.28.

Stanley Hayer was the top Canadian, placing 16th in 1:45.08. Sacha Gros of Vail, Colo., was 19th in 1:45.60.

In the first run, three skiers in the top seed missed gates coming over a pitch into the final steep, including France's Pierrick Bourgeat, who had the fastest intermediate time.

Norway's Tom Stiansen, defending world champion in slalom, and teammate Hans-Petter Buraas, gold medalist in slalom in the 1998 Olympics, also went out in that icy section.