Austria's Manfred Pranger wins Wengen slalom
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Nearly four years after his last World Cup victory, Austria's Manfred Pranger returned to the top of the podium in Sunday's Wengen slalom. The Austrian team placed four men in the top five.
REUTERS - Nearly four years after his last World Cup victory, Manfred Pranger triumphed in Sunday's slalom.
The 30-year-old Austrian won two of the most coveted slaloms on the circuit, at home in Kitzbuehel and Schladming in 2005, but injuries prevented him from adding to those successes.
He returned to the top of the podium here, clocking one minute 40.36 seconds to lead a superb team performance by the Austrians, who placed four men in the top five.
Reinfried Herbst, who beat Pranger into second place a week ago in Adelboden, was second, 0.34 seconds behind, while Croatian Ivica Kostelic was third, a further 0.05 seconds adrift.
Fourth-placed Marcel Hirscher and World Cup leader Benjamin Raich completed the Austrian showing in an ideal warm-up session for races in Kitzbuehel and Schladming from next weekend.
"It's a comeback I had almost ceased to hope for. To win Wengen after Kitz and Schladming makes a fine little collection," Pranger said.
"My second place in Adelboden boosted my morale and the hardship of the previous seasons taught me to be patient and cool. I'm much cooler since the injury while I used to panic in the past," he added.
Pranger missed the whole of last season after crashing in Alta Badia.
Herbst had a similar experience, missing the previous season before making it back on to a podium last winter with two slalom wins.
"I can only be proud to be second behind Manfred," he said. "I know exactly what it's like to fight hard to come back. Now it's going to be a great celebration we hope in Austria next week."
The Austrian slalom specialists had been eager to make up for the poor showing of their compatriots in the speed events in Wengen. The team had no skier in the top 15 of Saturday's downhill.
"We told ourselves we really needed to set the record straight. Beware, the Empire strikes back," said Pranger.
Among the disappointments of the day were France's Jean-Baptiste Grange, who finished sixth after a bad mistake in the second run ruined his chances.
American overall champion Bode Miller lost a lot of time in the first leg and took too many risks in the second, failing to complete the course for the 10th time this season.
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