Pirmin Zurbriggen had already convinced himself that he'd have to be happy with just his two smaller World Cup trophies. Now he's going to have to find a place on the family mantle for his third big one.
Against the odds, Zurbriggen beat Italy's Alberto Tomba at his own game this weekend to win his third World Cup overall skiing title. It's a title the Swiss star surely didn't expect to be carrying home today.Zurbriggen, blowing scoring opportunities with each race, led Tomba only 283 points to 281 heading into the final races of the season a giant slalom and a slalom, both events dominated by the 21-year-old Italian throughout this season.
But Tomba, who won three World Cup giant slaloms in addition to the Olympic gold medal, fell in Friday's race. No problem, really, because on Saturday was the slalom. Tomba had won six of the seven previous slaloms, finishing second in the other, and had also won Olympic gold in that event.
But, amazingly, he fell on Saturday, as well.
As it turned out, Zurbriggen didn't even need to be here to add this overall title to those he won in 1984 and 1987. But as long as he was here, he took the opportunity that no one should ever count him out. He didn't win either of the decisive races, but he had a solid third in the GS and a surprising fourth in the slalom, an event in which he seldom excels simply because he can't find time to train.
Despite losing a title he seemed a shoo-in to win, Tomba dominated the season, with his personality as much as his racing. He won nine World Cup races, and each victory was greeted with an even bigger party than the previous one. The overall trophy was the only thing he didn't win, and the slalom and giant slalom titles and two Olympic golds no doubt will salve some of the disappointment.
Zurbriggen won nine races and two combineds in breezing to the overall title last season, but won only two races both downhills this season. Still, it increased his victory total to 31, second all-time to Ingemar Stenmark's staggering total of 85.