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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Tomba the Terrific Wins Again

ALTA BADIA, Italy -- Miracle Man, Emperor, Prince of the Slalom and the all-purpose Hero.

Alberto Tomba, the self-styled ski Messiah, got a broad range of new titles in the Italian media as he won his fifth straight consecutive race Thursday.

Tomba captured his first World Cup giant slalom victory in nearly three years Thursday for an impressive series of five wins this season.

The 28-year-old Italian superstar, a three-time Olympic champion, beat Swiss Urs Kaelin by 0.45 seconds down the steep Gran Risa track at Alta Badia for his 38th career victory.

Austrian Christian Mayer placed third, 0.61 seconds behind the winner.

Defending World Cup champion Kjetil Andre Aamodt of Norway took fourth place, 1.23 seconds behind Tomba.

Tomba, whose previous giant slalom victory dates back to Crans Montana on March 20, 1992, had a streak of four consecutive slalom wins before the triumph in Val Badia.

At the end of the first run Tomba and Kaelin clocked the same fastest time, in a rare tie for Alpine skiing. Both were timed at 1:9.17 down a course that drops 393 meters and is marked with 53 gates.

Wednesday's slalom event at Lech am Arlberg, Austria, was no less thrilling. Millions of Italian ski fans watching Wednesday's slalom on television leaped to their feet and screamed when Tomba barely escaped a second run spill, recovered his balance and skied to victory, edging Thomas Sykora by .02 seconds in the overall time after two runs. Tomba won Tuesday's slalom by nearly 1 1/2 seconds over Sykora.

Counting the last two slaloms of last season, Tomba now has a seven-race winning streak in World Cup slaloms. Prior to this week no one in World Cup history had ever before won six consecutive races, or ever opened the season with four consecutive slalom wins.

All this follows on the heels of a rib injury that forced the Italian to drop out of the giant slalom event Sunday at Val d'Isere.

Tomba's second run bordered on the unbelievable. He had to brake hard just to get his skis inside a gate and regain his rhythm.

"I made a big mistake at the bottom," Tomba said. "I lost maybe a second. At one moment I even considered the possibility of stopping and dropping out."

Tomba was shaking his head in astonishment as he finished his run and watched Sykora fail to better his time. When Tomba realized he had won, he put his hand to his mouth in disbelief. He went over to a group of Italian fans near the finish line and sprayed them with snow.

Tomba's total time was 1:43.57.

"I did something special today, something I can't do very often," said Tomba, who appeared amazed by his own recovery.

The talkative Italian, internationally known as la Bomba ("the Bomb") because of his explosive style between the gates, is considered one of the best world skiers ever, although he has never won the World Cup overall title.

Tomba does not start in speed races and can hardly match such skiers as Marc Girardelli and Kjetil Andre Aamodt, who pick up points in all disciplines.

Girardelli has won 23 slalom and giant slalom races in his World Cup career so far, as compared to Tomba's 37, but has captured a record of five overall titles against Tomba's zero.

Although insisting he's not thinking of the overall title, Tomba's 550 points are going to keep him in the lead for a while.

Swiss Michael von Gr--nigen, Tomba's closest pursuer, with 294 points, dislocated a shoulder when he fell in the second run Wednesday and will be out for two weeks.

The same course, used for a women's giant slalom Wednesday, brought good luck to Italy's Sabina Panzanini, who scored her first-ever World Cup victory.

In what turned to be an "Italian Day" in Alta Badia, Panzanini beat Austrian Anita Wachter by 0.47 seconds.

Another Italian, two-time Olympic champion Deborah Compagnoni, made a successful comeback from a monthlong illness, taking third place.

"Losing to Sabina was sweet to me," said Compagnoni, who missed the previous nine World Cup races because of kidney infections.

Panzanini, who took risks throughout the two runs, was overjoyed by her victory on the home track.

"Troppo bello" ("Too good to be true"), Panzanini said in tears at the finish line.

American Eva Twardokens had her best giant slalom finish in two years, placing fifth, nearly two seconds behind the Italian winner.