Maier Paces Downhill Training Run

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BEAVER CREEK, Colo., Dec. 5, 2003 (AP by John Mossman) -- Hermann Maier's competitors are beginning to hear his footsteps again.

Four days after winning a World Cup super-G race in Canada, the Austrian star paced a downhill training run Thursday, continuing his remarkable comeback from a severe leg injury.

Maier was timed in 1 minute, 41.14 seconds on the demanding Birds of Prey course, bettering the time of Norway's Bjarne Solbakken, who was clocked in 1:41.23.

Austrians Peter Rzehak and Klaus Kroell were third and fourth, respectively, in 1:41.33 and 1:41.42.

Daron Rahlves of Sugar Bowl, Calif., ranked fifth in 1:41.70.

Austria's Stephan Eberharter, the defending World Cup overall and downhill champion, was eighth in 1:41.90. Bode Miller of Franconia, N.H., runner-up in last season's overall standings, placed 19th in 1:42.56.

Thursday was the lone training run in preparation for downhill races Friday and Saturday, with a super-G to follow Sunday. Friday's race is a makeup of a race scheduled for next week in Val d'Isere, France, but canceled because of warm temperatures.

Maier was a double Olympic gold medalist and three-time World Cup overall champion before a motorcycle accident in 2001 nearly cost him his right leg. He missed almost two seasons recovering from his injuries.

Nicknamed "The Hermanator," Maier won one race last season, a super-G in Kitzbuehel, Austria, and he triumphed again Sunday in the super-G at Lake Louise, Alberta.

Maier, still experiencing some numbness in his right leg, admitted his win last weekend and Thursday's training-run performance have boosted his mental outlook.

"It's very good for me," he said. "It gives me more confidence, and I need that, for sure. This is a very dangerous course, very tough. You have to ski good technique and have good concentration."

Rahlves called his effort "kind of a rock-and-roll run. I like those _ when you have to fight to stay on your skis. That's what we're going to have (Friday)."

Eberharter skied wide on a turn halfway down the course and nearly crashed.

"I had a big problem," he said. "I almost crashed because of a big hole in the snow. I was lucky not to find myself in the net."

Miller said he used the training run to get a feel for the course.

"We pretty much have the skis we're going to go on," he said. "This course is technical enough that I just ski it normal and that's close enough. I feel really good."

Marco Sullivan of Squaw Valley, Calif., fell coming off the final jump and injured his right knee. A Ski Team spokesman said Sullivan damaged multiple ligaments and likely will be lost for the season.




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