Austrian skiing star Benjamin Raich has finally won the first Olympic gold medal of his career, taking the men's giant slalom in Sestriere, near Turin.
Benjamin Raich will celebrate his 28th birthday next week, and no matter what he does in this Saturday's slalom, he knows he will leave Turin as an Olympic champion.
Raich is the overall World Cup leader this season and had won two bronze medals at the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics.
He was fifth after the first giant slalom run, but under sunny skies he skied the fastest in the second run, and his combined time was good enough for the gold medal.
Raich called it a tough race.
"It was not easy," said Benjamin Raich. "The slope was very long, very steep, very icey. Everything but what I need. It was a very hard fight for me, and actually the second run I gave everything, and now it has happened; I am Olympic champion, and I am very very happy."
Raich's margin of victory over silver medalist Joel Chenal of France was 0.39 second. The other Austrian star, Hermann The Herminator Maier, won the bronze medal.
American Bode Miller, last year's overall World Cup champion, tied for sixth. He is still seeking his first medal of these Olympics and his last chance will be Saturday's slalom.