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Svindal takes downhill to lead overall race

  • Story Highlights
  • Aksel Lund Svindal improves his chances of claiming World Cup overall crown
  • Svindal leads Benjamin Raich by 72 points after winning downhill at Are
  • Michael Walchhofer claims overall downhill title despite skiing out
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(CNN) -- Aksel Lund Svindal of Norway claimed the final downhill of the season at the World Cup finals in Are to edge ahead in a close battle for the men's overall title.

Svindal goes airborne on his way to victory at the finals in Are.

Svindal goes airborne on his way to victory at the finals in Are.

Austria's Michael Walchhofer claimed the downhill title despite failing to finish Wednesday's race as his teammate Klaus Kroell could only finish sixth.

Kroell trailed Walchhofer by 75 points going into the final round with a win worth 100 points.

It was Walchhofer's third downhill championship since 2005 as he finished with 470 points to 424 for Kroell.

The ever-consistent Svindal was at his immaculate best on a shortened course due to fog on the Olympia piste where he had won gold in the 2007 world championships.

He crossed the line in one minute 22.26 seconds to edge Didier Cuche of Switzerland by 0.20 seconds with home skier Hans Olsson taking a surprise third.

Svindal will be back in action on Thursday in the super-G, looking to extend his overall World Cup lead in a speed discipline ahead of his weaker events in the giant slalom and slalom.

He has a lead of 72 points over Austrian Benjamin Raich, who finished 13th in the downhill, with Cuche a further 14 points adrift.

Ivica Kostelic of Croatia, who is 92 points behind, is also in contention for overall honors with three races remaining in Sweden and like Raich is a gate specialist.

"Things are going better and better for me," Svindal told Eurosport.

"I have to score as many points as possible in the speed events, so this start to the finals is very important for me."

Reigning overall champion Bode Miller of the United States is sitting out the World Cup finals after a disappointing season.

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