ASPEN, Colo. -- Ingemar Stenmark of Sweden won his last race in North America and 86th trophy in 15 years of international skiing Sunday, capturing a World Cup giant slalom race.
Stenmark, at 32 the oldest skier on the circuit, had the second fastest time on the first run of the Ruthie's Run course, 21-hundredths of a second behind World Cup overall leader Marc Girardelli. The Swede posted the fastest time on the second run as a heavy cloud cover lifted to edge Girardelli by twelve-hundredths of a secon.d
Stenmark immediately was mobbed at the finish line by racers and officials. Among the first to reach him was fellow Swede Lars-Boerje Eriksson, his heir apparent and third-place finisher Sunday. Eriksson, who had led the race until Stenmark's run, hugged his countryman.
'If I had to get beat by anybody, I am glad it was him,' said Eriksson, 22, who won Saturday's super-giant slalom.
The mild-mannered Stenmark said the victory was sweet, but was not as special as his first victory, a slalom in Madonna, Italy, in 1974.
'It is not the same feeling as when you win the first race, but it still is a super feeling,' he said. He said he felt very nervous before the second run because he knew he had a chance to win.
Stenmark has said he will retire at the end of the season. His last four races all will be in Japan in March.
The Swede's victory overshadowed the performance of Girardelli, the Luxembourg racer who continued to pull ahead in the overall World Cup standings. Girardelli's closest competition, Pirmin Zurbriggen of Switzerland, did not finish the first run of the race and scored no points.
Stenmark's 86 victories include 46 in the giant slalom and 40 in the slalom. He hadn't won a race since 1987 and would have retired after last year if it hadn't been for his 1988 Olympic showing.
Stenmark had a disastrous first run in the Olympic slalom at Calgary, but had the fastest time on the second run. He said Sunday that second run convinced him that he could still compete.
Kyle Wieche of Farmington, Conn., finished seventh in the giant slalom, the best finish by an American in the event in years. The 21-year-old skier had the disadvantage of starting 24th in the first run.
Girardelli's second place Sunday pushed him into the lead in the giant slalom standings. Girardelli, who already has clinched the downhill and combined titles and is virtually unbeatable for the overall title, has 59 giant slalom points. Zurbriggen is second with 56, with Stenmark third with 46.
Girardelli also widened his lead over Zurbriggen in the overall standings. He has 358 points to 242 for Zurbriggen with six World Cup races left -- two in British Columbia next weekend before the concluding events in Japan.
Stenmark won't race the British Columbia races -- a downhill and super-giant slalom -- because he only races the shorter, technical events.
Stenmark joked Sunday that he had only one regret in his career, and that was racing in one downhill. 'That gave me a headache,' he said.
He also joked that Sunday's course was short enough that his legs did not become tired.
Stenmark said Sunday's victory 'means a lot to me because it is my last year of racing. If I wouldn't have won, the people would have said that in my last year I was not a good skier. I have proved that I can still ski good.'
When Stenmark started his second run, he said he could hear the fans at the bottom of the hill yelling for him. The cheers encouraged him, especially since American fans once cheered against him, he said.
Stenmark hesitated to place himself among the greatest skiers of all time. He said there was no way to compare, but said he felt there were many more racers capable of winning now than when he started his career.