Snowbasin, Utah, Feb. 7, 2002 -- In the opening day of men's Olympic downhill training, the spotlight fell on the pre-race favorites. And Daron Rahlves of Sugar Bowl, CA was very much in that spotlight! Rahlves finished a strong third behind Austrians Stephan Eberharter and Fritz Strobl. Eberharter, starting 12th under clear skies, posted a 1:39.07. Strobl came down next in 1:39.19, with Rahlves starting 20th and posting a 1:39.77 -- .70 off Eberharter's pace, tying Norway's Lasse Kjus for third.
"I had a really good feeling today," said a reserved but confident Rahlves. "I really had some nice turns up on top."
"The course has a lot of little changes from last year," said Rahlves. The World Cup racers had a single training run on the Grizzly downhill a year ago before heavy snow wiped out the weekend schedule. "There are some little changes coming into the jumps and some changes in a few of the gates, just a little different timing."
Jake Fiala of Breckenridge, CO was 30th in 1:41.99,Marco Sullivan of Squaw Valley, CA was 33rd in 1:42.13, Scott Macartney of Redmond, WA, was 42nd in 1:43.07, Casey Puckett of Aspen, CO, was 47th in 1:44.07 and Bode Miller of Franconia, NH, was 32nd in 1:42.28. Puckett and Miller were training for the downhill combined.
"I had a good run -- didn't try to push it too much today," said Miller. "Downhill for me is really fun, I like the speed. I hope to ski more downhill some day but right now I don't have that much training. But on race day in the combined, I'm going to go all out in the downhill."
Most racers were complimentary about the course, which is reknowned as one of the better Olympic downhill courses. "Actually, a lot of the course isn't all that fast because it's so technical and turny," said Miller. Still, measured speed trap times were approaching 70 mph, with estimates into the 80s for the finish area.
Rahlves appeared very comfortable with the course and very comfortable with his skiing. "I'm pretty happy but I'll work on a few variations of my line in the next two training runs," said Rahlves. "For me, an important part is right out of the start. It's important to carry speed out of the start into the flat section before the top jump. Beyond that, every part of this course is tough!"
Rahlves was 12th fastest on the day on the top section -- ironically matching Eberharter on that section, but was extremely strong on the bottom third of the course, posting some of the faster split times of the day.
The top three results looked familiar -- all being top names on the World Cup downhill circuit. While Rahlves wasn't into making predictions, when asked if he thought the ranking was indicative of what would happen on race day, he laughed, "Yah, but maybe the order will be different!"
Friday's Training Cancelled
Snowbasin, Utah, Feb. 8, 2002 -- Heavy snow and wind forced cancellation of the men's downhill training run scheduled for 1 p.m. Friday at Snowbasin. Women's downhill training, originally set for 10 a.m., was moved to noon and officials were optimistic they would be able to get the first women's training run in.
The fast-moving snow squall moved in before dawn. The U.S. women's alpine team had left its lodging for the mountain shortly after 7 a.m. before being called back. The team then headed back shortly after 8 a.m. for course inspection.