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Maier retains title with victory

ARE, Sweden — Hermann Maier won the last men's World Cup downhill of the season on Thursday, beating fellow Austrian Stephan Eberharter by 35-hundreths of a second to retain his DH title.

"The Herminator" turned in a near-flawless run, posting the fastest split times all the way en route to his 12th World Cup win of the season.

He is now just one behind the all-time record of 13 in one season, set by Swedish legend Ingemar Stenmark in 1979.

Maier still has two races left in the World Cup finals, a super-G and a giant slalom. He could tie Stenmark's mark by winning Friday's super-G.

Stenmark, a guest of honor here, won all 10 GS races and three slaloms 22 years ago.

Maier completed the short, 2,302-meter Olympia course in 1 minute, 24.20 seconds.

Hilde Gerg of Germany won the last women's downhill of the season ahead of Isolde Kostner of Italy, who clinched the DH title for the first time with a second place.

Gerg covered the 2,100-meter course in 1:16.56. It was her 10th World Cup win and her second in the downhill.

Kostner clocked 1:16.87. Sylviane Berthod of Switzerland was third in 1:16.97.

With only one difficult section, the Olympia is not only short but relatively easy and favors good gliders.

Eberharter, who led Maier by six points in the downhill standings going into the race, finished seven-hundredths ahead of third-placed Kenneth Sivertsen of Norway.

Last weekend, Maier clinched his third World Cup overall title in four years and his fourth straight super-G title on Kvitfjell's Olympic course near Lillehammer, Norway.

Maier's 40th career victory put him in a tie for fourth with Pirmin Zurbriggen of Switzerland on the all-time list. Stenmark, history's greatest gate racer, tops the list with 86 — 46 in giant slalom and 40 in slalom. Italy's Alberto Tomba is a distant second with 50.

Maier topped the downhill standings with 576 points. Eberharter finished with 562. Fritz Strobl and Hannes Trinkl, who upset Maier for the DH gold in last month's World Alpine Ski Championships at St. Anton, Austria, completed the Austrian sweep of the top four places with 402 and 313 points.

Kostner finished with 596 points. Renate Goetschl of Austria was second with 455 and Regine Cavagnoud of France third with 360 points. Cavagnoud was only 20th in the downhill finale.

Goetschl is still involved in one of the most exciting duels — the battle for the overall title. The defending champion, Goetschl trails Janica Kostelic of Croatia by only 39 points. Kostelic skipped the downhill.

Three races — the super-G, slalom and giant slalom — remain for the women in these World Cup finals.

Canada's Melanie Turgeon just missed her second podium finish of the season, finishing one-tenth of a second behind Berthod.

Megan Gerety of the United States placed fifth, 0.80 behind the winner. Teammate Kirsten Clark, winner of the next to last downhill of the series, wound up a disappointing 21st out of 22 finishers.