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Innerhofer equals record as Austrians make skiing history

updated 12:10 PM EST, Sat February 23, 2013
Christof Innerhofer became the second Italian skier to win three races in a World Cup season as he triumphed in the men's downhill in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany. Christof Innerhofer became the second Italian skier to win three races in a World Cup season as he triumphed in the men's downhill in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany.
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Milestones made at World Cup events
Milestones made at World Cup events
Milestones made at World Cup events
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STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Christof Innerhofer becomes second Italian skier to win three races in a World Cup season
  • He bounces back after winning no medals at this month's world championships in Austria
  • Georg Streitberger's second place makes Austria first nation to reach 500 World Cup podiums
  • Carolina Ruiz Castillo becomes first Spanish woman to win a World Cup downhill race

(CNN) -- Less is proving to be more for Christof Innerhofer, who equaled an Italian skiing record by claiming his third World Cup victory this season on Saturday.

The 28-year-old's pre-season preparations were hampered by a back problem, but he is enjoying his best campaign following his downhill win at Garmisch-Partenkirchen in Germany -- where he won a full collection of gold, silver and bronze medals at the 2011 world championships.

"I struggled a lot during the preparation period," Innerhofer said on the FIS World Cup website after matching the feat of compatriot Kristian Ghedina in the 1996-97 season.

"To think I won three times after not being sure if I would even be here this season is something very special. All I want to keep thinking about is how to keep this momentum and get faster every race."

Innerhofer, who was 14th in the downhill at this month's world championships, triumphed by just 0.12 seconds from surprise runner-up Georg Streitberger.

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With Klaus Kroll claiming third, Austria became the first country to pass 500 World Cup podiums in any discipline, men or women.

"It's a perfect day," said Streitberger, who was fourth in the world championships on home snow at Schladming, where Austria's only individual gold came on the final day last Sunday for overall World Cup leader Marcel Hirscher in the slalom.

"My last podium was in Kitzbuhel in 2011 and since then I struggled with an injury, and to come back and finish on the podium is amazing," he said.

"I was very fast in the first section, than I might have lost the victory in the middle due to some small mistakes but altogether it's an incredible day."

Read: Ligety 'the King' in Austria

With world champion Aksel Lund Svindal finishing fifth to remain on top of the downhill standings, Hirscher holds a 169-point lead over the Norwegian going into Sunday's giant slalom -- where he will take on three-time Schladming gold medalist Ted Ligety of the U.S.

Meanwhile, Tina Maze maintained her massive lead in the women's World Cup standings with fourth place in the downhill at Meribel in France on Saturday.

The Slovenian is 858 points clear of Germany's Maria Hofl-Riesch, who took second place behind Spain's surprise victor Carolina Ruiz Castillo.

Ruiz-Castillo claimed her maiden win, and only her second podium placing -- some 13 years after her first in a giant slalom in Sestriere, Italy.

Born in Chile, but a longtime Spain representative at international level, the 31-year-old became the first skier from her country to win a women's World Cup downhill.

"So far it's been my best season and I'm incredibly happy about what happened today", she said.

"This is the result of a lot of work and the collaboration with the French team. I've been training as a full member of their team for a year now and it's paying off.

"Sharing the successes of my French teammates at the world championships was really inspiring. I already knew I could be as fast as them or even faster sometimes in trainings and found the opportunity to show it today."

France's surprise world champion Marion Rolland was back in 10th, but teammate Marie Marchand-Arvier took the final podium place -- the fifth of her career and her first this season.

It was the first World Cup women's race held at Meribel since 1994, and only the sixth ever.

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