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Buoyed by son's birth, Rocca takes aim at Tomba's slalom mark


Buoyed by son’s birth, Rocca takes aim at Tomba’s slalom mark{mosimage}After five consecutive World Cup slalom victories, Giorgio Rocca is stalking the record of seven set by fellow Italian Alberto Tomba more than a decade ago.

”It is possible. I think that I found the key to skiing without mistakes,” said Rocca after winning Sunday’s Wengen race to remain undefeated in the slalom this season.
”I always had a dream that I could win many in a row. To win five in succession is just unbelievable, especially as it took place in front of all my family.”

Rocca fought back from 0.30 seconds down and fourth place to win in an aggregate time of 1 minute, 42.28 seconds before his wife Tania and their infant son Giacomo.

Finland’s Kalle Palander, who was fifth after the opening run, was second in 1:42.48. Alois Vogl of Germany, last year’s winner, was third in 1:42.79.

Tomba holds the record for consecutive slalom wins with seven in the 1994-95 season. He also won the two last slaloms of the previous season, bringing the streak to nine.

Rocca’s achievement on Sunday tied him with Swedish great Ingemar Stenmark, who has a record 86 career World Cup wins and swept five in a row in the 1976-77 season, and had another pair of five-win streaks over two seasons. Five-time World Cup overall champion Marc Girardelli, who was born in Austria but raced for Luxembourg, won five straight in 1984-85.

With 11 World Cup victories, Rocca is the most successful Italian slalom specialist behind Tomba, who had 50 career World Cup wins, 35 in slalom.

”It is a big honor to have my name in the history of skiing,” said Rocca, who will need to win at the Austrian resorts of Kitzbuehel and Schladming next week to match Tomba’s record.

But Palander, who won four straight slaloms in 2004, was determined to stop Rocca. ”I’m well-placed to know that in slalom it does end one day,” said Palander. ”So it will end for Rocca.

”But I was thinking that if he wins the next two slaloms, I wouldn’t like to be him going into the Olympics. It’s a lot of pressure for him at home in Italy.”

However, Rocca said he hasn’t lost a slalom since his son’s birth on Nov. 21. ”He is 50 days old,” Rocca said. ”He is a lucky baby. I win everything in slalom since he is born. Seriously, winning five brings me more confidence than pressure.”

Benjamin Raich of Austria continued to lead the overall standings with 706 points after 21 races, and Rocca pulled further ahead in the slalom standings with 500 points, 215 ahead of the next best racer, American Ted Ligety.

”I don’t have to prove anything to anybody” Rocca said. ”I just want to have fun, and you can see it in my results.”

- The Associated Press

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