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TOMBA TURNS JEERS TO CHEERS

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Alberto Tomba was jeered at the start but cheered at the finish as he charged to slalom gold for his second title at the Alpine skiing world championships Sunday.

The Italian superstar, who had never won a world championship race before this year, put in a perfect second run down the Neveros piste for a combined winning time of one minute, 42.26 seconds on the closing day of the championships.Austria's Mario Reiter took the silver medal, 0.31 seconds behind the triple Olympic gold medalist, while Switzerland's Michael Von Gruenigen was third in 1:42.81.

Tomba, who won the giant slalom title Friday, was only sixth after the first leg.

But the 29-year-old Italian playboy, who upset local fans last week by criticizing the Spanish resort venue, had a remarkable second run down the 61-gate course.

As the crowd saw his intermediate time and realized they were witnessing something special, the early whistles which had greeted his departure from the hut were replaced by mounting applause.

"This is one of the best races I have ever run," Tomba declared after the final race of the two-week championships that left Italy atop of the medals table.

"I was just going for a medal. To win two golds is beyond my wildest dreams."

Italy ended the championships with four gold medals, double the tally of nearest nation Sweden.

The United States got its lone gold thanks to the downhill heroics of Picabo Street, who also picked up a bronze in the Super giant slalom.

Tomba's second gold meant he shared the honor of best skier at the championships with Sweden's Pernilla Wiberg, who won the women's slalom and combined titles.

Tomba said his first run had been a little conservative.

"I didn't feel like taking any risks but I had nothing to lose in the second run," he said. "The course was much more open then."