Michael Walchhofer eyes Val Gardena record

VAL GARDENA, Italy (Reuters) - Michael Walchhofer equalled two skiing greats when he won a World Cup Super-G on his favourite Saslong piste on Friday.

The Austrian’s fourth victory in the Italian resort put him on par with compatriot Franz Klammer, often seen as the best downhill specialist ever, and local hero Kristian Ghedina, also four-times a winner here.

But the 35-year-old, in his last World Cup season, could go one better in Saturday’s downhill which so much suits his qualities.

“It was an ideal course for me, very fast and I tackled the end of the technical part perfectly which made the difference,” said the 2003 downhill world champion, winner of two downhills on the Saslong slope as well as a Super-G six years ago.

“Tomorrow is another day but it’s a course that suits me. I owe these victories this season to my serenity. After my victory in Lake Louise, I don’t have any pressure. Everything else is bonus.”

Winner of the first downhill of the season in Lake Louise on November 27, the Austrian clocked one minute 34.35 seconds on Friday to upstage unheralded German Stephan Keppler, who earned his first career podium, 0.67 seconds adrift.

The Austrian also took the lead in the overall World Cup standings on 249 points, 11 clear of compatriot Benjamin Raich.

“It’s amazing to win two races so early in the season and hold the World Cup lead. I don’t think it’s ever happened to me before,” Walchhofer said.

Among the favourites, Norwegian Aksel-Lund Svindal again failed to deliver. He was on par with Walchhofer for most of the race before crashing out on the final stretch.

American Bode Miller managed a 16th place despite a huge mistake near the top.

Editing by Dave Thompson