For the second straight day, Hermann Maier was master of the mountain, pacing training yesterday in preparation for a men's World Cup downhill race today in Beaver Creek, Colo. The powerful Austrian, who paced Thursday's training run by .21 seconds over Italy's Kristian Ghedina, led yesterday by .68 seconds over teammate Hannes Trinkl.

Austrians, in fact, swept the top four positions as well as six of the top 10 and eight of the top 14.

Maier was timed in 1 minute 43.98 seconds, nearly two seconds quicker than his run the day before. Trinkl came across in 1:44.66 and Peter Rzehak was third in 1:44.88. Daron Rahlves of Truckee, Calif., was the top American, in 31st place at 1:46.19.

Maier, who said tongue-in-cheek earlier in the week that "I'm a little bit scared" of the demanding Birds of Prey course because of its speed and big jumps, sounded a warning to his competitors that the best was yet to come. "Maybe I'm skiing a little bit rounder at the moment," he said. "It's training. I guess I can ski a little more directly in the race. My confidence is in very good shape at the moment and I feel no pain." . . .

Austria's Alexandra Meissnitzer, the women's World Cup overall champion last season, had knee surgery and is expected to miss the rest of the season. The 26-year-old underwent a 90-minute operation in her home town of Salzburg.

GolfCampbell Still Riding Wave Michael Campbell, who snapped Tiger Woods's four-tournament winning streak Nov. 14, birdied the final four holes for a 7-under-par 65 and a one-shot lead after two rounds of the $640,000 Australian Open.

The 30-year-old New Zealander, who won the Johnnie Walker Classic two weeks ago, had been four strokes off the lead after the first round at the Royal Sydney Golf Club. "It's been two weeks now and I'm still riding the crest of a wave," Campbell said. "I'm totally in control of my game at the moment."

Campbell was at 10-under 134 for the tournament, one stroke ahead of amateur Aaron Baddeley.

SoccerU.S. Team Loses to Ghana, 2-0 Ghana scored goals in each half to beat the United States, 2-0, in the third-place game of the under-17 world championships in Auckland, New Zealand. Pimpong Razak opened the scoring in the 35th minute, and star striker Ishmael Addo made it 2-0 in the 84th minute.

Brazil played Australia in last night's final.

BaseballMiller Park Depositions Two people who were running the lift when a giant crane collapsed onto partially completed Miller Park in Milwaukee, killing three workers, said tracks on one side of the crane were sinking into the ground just before the accident.

The comments came in sworn depositions that were released by order of the state Court of Appeals as the result of a lawsuit filed by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Attorneys for Mitsubishi Heavy Industries of America, which is building the retractable roof for the ballpark, have opposed the release of depositions in the civil lawsuits filed on behalf of the three accident victims' families.

Fred Flowers, an operator of the crane July 14, said in his deposition that "ground failure," or the sinking of one side of the crane's tracks, was a key factor in the collapse. Though some have suggested that winds gusting to more than 20 mph were a probable cause of the accident, Flowers said he did not think so.

Milo Bengston, the original site supervisor for crane owner Neil F. Lampson Co. Inc., said Mitsubishi officials stopped him 10 or 12 times from ordering gravel to help stabilize the ground under the crane.

The accident caused millions of dollars in damage and pushed back the scheduled opening of the Brewers' Miller Park from April until April 2001. . . .

The Philadelphia Phillies reached a contract agreement with free agent closer Mike Jackson contingent on Jackson's passing a physical, according to a published report. The two sides reached the agreement Tuesday, according to the Philadelphia Daily News. It came four days after the St. Louis Cardinals abruptly canceled a news conference in which they were apparently ready to announce they had signed Jackson.

The Cardinals' deal was reportedly for $12 million over three years. The Daily News reported the Phillies' offer was for two years plus a club option, but with a higher average annual value than the Cardinals' offer.

CAPTION: Austria's Hermann Maier had top training run (1:43.98) in preparation for today's downhill in Beaver Creek, Colo.