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BORMIO, Italy (AP) — After a five-year absence, Dominik Paris rediscovered that winning feeling on the Stelvio downhill course.
Returning to the site of his first World Cup victory, Paris dominated on home snow Thursday to end the season-long podium drought for Italy's men's team.
"I've still got the same feeling here," Paris said. "I had a lot of confidence even after the training run."
Paris won by a slim 0.04-second margin ahead of Aksel Lund Svindal of Norway on the demanding Stelvio course, which was softer than usual due to heavy snowfall a day earlier.
Kjetil Jansrud of Norway finished third, 0.17 seconds behind.
It was the ninth career win for Paris, a muscular skier who has also claimed the feared downhill in Kitzbuehel, Austria, twice.
After his 2012 win, Paris missed the downhill on the Stelvio in 2013 due to injury. Then the race was moved to nearby Santa Caterina Valfurva for the past three years.
"I'm glad it's back in Bormio," said Paris, who keeps his responses brief and to the point.
Last season, the Italian team set a squad record with 43 podium results — 25 for the women and 18 for the men. This season, they have six for the women and now one for the men.
"Now I hope I can maintain this form for the classics," Paris said, looking forward to the downhills next month in Wengen, Switzerland, and Kitzbuehel.
Svindal and Jansrud had already completed their runs and were preparing to celebrate when Paris came down and got the crowd roaring by leading through the first two checkpoints. Paris trailed slightly at the last split but was able to carry his speed through the final zig-zag turns — when lactic acid was bursting through his muscles — and create a minimal advantage.
The Italian's speed topped out at 129.7 kph (80 mph).
At the finish, Paris pumped his fists and waved to the crowd.
"The two Norwegians are always fast so you've got to pull out something extra to beat them," Paris said.
When he was an overly aggressive child, Paris was sent by his father to meditate amid grazing cows in the mountains. Now, he expends his energy on the world's toughest downhill courses — or by playing heavy metal music with his guitar.
The start of the race was delayed for 45 minutes while course workers finished clearing the 40 centimeters (16 inches) of snow that fell on the piste Wednesday.
"I'm always happy when it snows. In winter you need snow," said Paris, who comes from the Val d'Ultimo in Italy's German-speaking Alto Adige region.
The snow softened the Stelvio's bumps, making it less of a physical test than in past years — when most skiers doubled over in exhaustion at the finish.
"The right word is 'easier' but that doesn't mean it's easier to win," Svindal said. "It means it was easier to get to the finish line."
Downhill world champion Beat Feuz of Switzerland finished fourth and Hannes Reichelt of Austria was fifth.
Svindal, who had won the previous two downhills, still leads the discipline standings.
With the sun moving in and out behind clouds and the course mostly in the shade to begin with, there were several ugly falls.
Dominik Schwaiger of Germany was airlifted off the course and brought to a local hospital with unspecified injuries after a high-speed crash. Guillermo Fayed and Matthieu of France were dealing with various bruises after similar falls and Travis Ganong of the United States was getting his knee checked at the U.S. team hotel.
An Alpine combined race is scheduled for the Stelvio on Friday.
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