Back at site of crash, Mayer leads Gardena downhill training

VAL GARDENA, Italy (AP) Olympic champion Matthias Mayer led a World Cup downhill training session Wednesday as the Austrian returned to the site of a horrific crash last season.

Clocking 1 minute, 58.46 seconds down the Saslong course, Mayer was 0.15 seconds ahead of former overall champion Carlo Janka of Switzerland and 0.41 in front of defending downhill champion Peter Fill of Italy, who grew up nearby.

Steven Nyman, the American whose only three career wins have come in Val Gardena, was fourth.

Mayer missed the rest of last season after breaking two vertebrae in the Val Gardena downhill. A protective air bag that Mayer wore under his race suit during the crash was credited with preventing more serious injuries.

He returned to action this month in Val d'Isere, France.

''I hope that I have fully reconciled with the Saslong,'' Mayer said. ''This was a very special run for me. Although it was just a training, it was good for me to come in first.''

Another training session is scheduled for Thursday, followed by a super-G race Friday then the downhill on Saturday.

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