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Maier wins third title

KVITFJELL, Norway — Hermann Maier joined one of the revered names in skiing — Ingemar Stenmark of Sweden — when he captured the overall World Cup title for the third time.

The Austrian star finished fifth Saturday in a downhill on an arduous course used at the 1994 Lillehammer Olympics. This was his second straight overall crown.

"The overall is the greatest title you can win in skiing," Maier said. "It's better than Olympic and world championship gold medals because you have to be on top all season long — not just in one race."

Maier is tied with Stenmark and Phil Mahre of the United States with three overall titles. Marc Girardelli, the Austrian who competed for Luxembourg, leads with five.

Stenmark, the greatest gate racer ever, won 86 World Cup races. He leads Alberto Tomba of Italy by 36 victories, a staggering margin.

"It's just great to be up there with Ingemar Stenmark," Maier said.

Maier, who won Friday's downhill, admits it will be tough to catch Girardelli.

"I don't know if I'm going to ski three or four more years," he said.

Lasse Kjus of Norway, second in the overall standings, finished 11th Saturday.

Stephan Eberharter made it a perfect day for the Austrians, winning in 1 minute, 45.17 seconds. Florian Eckert of Germany was second, .09 seconds behind. Fritz Strobl of Austria was third, .25 behind. Five Austrians finished in the top 10.

Daron Rahlves of the United States, disqualified Friday for an improperly tied racing bib, was ninth, .53 seconds behind.

"It was no big deal," Rahlves said. "I came out yesterday to have fun on the hill and ski well. That's all I'm here for. All the other stuff is secondary for sure."

Maier led Kjus 1,273 points to 729 before this race, the next to last in the series. A win is worth 100 points, with a total of five races left.

Maier, whose first overall title came in 1998, had a superb World Cup season but disappointed his home fans at last month's world championships.

His victory Friday was his first ever in the downhill in Norway. But he was not as sharp Saturday, finishing .44 seconds behind.

"It was not a good run," he said. "I made a big mistake on the last jump. I got my right ski in the air. I lost speed."

Racing in sunshine but 1 degree weather, Eberharter regained the lead in the downhill standings. He leads Maier, the defending champion, by six points entering the last downhill in Sweden.

"I had wrong skis yesterday, so I switched to better skis," Eberharter said. "I was fast on the bottom section. I knew I had a chance to win. I love Kvitfjell."

Last year, Rahlves won consecutive downhills on this course, the first World Cup title by an American man in any discipline since 1995.

On Friday, Rahlves tried to make the bib fit tighter before the race. He tied the knots from behind, a rules violation.

"Yesterday was unfortunate," he said. "I had no idea about it. It happened and now it's over."

He had a regulation bib Saturday.

"I don't know why they made them that big," he said. "I heard it was a Nordic bib."

Norway's Kjetil-Andre Aamodt, the winningest skier in Olympic and world championship history with 15 medals — skied off the course in his last downhill.

Aamodt, a former World Cup overall champ, will skip the downhill next season and concentrate on the slalom and giant slalom for the Salt Lake City Olympics.