February 15, 2006
SAN SICARIO, Italy (AP by Bob Baum)—Michaela Dorfmeister raced for elusive gold. Lindsey Kildow raced through excruciating pain. The Austrian's long-sought victory and the American's inspiring eighth-place finish in the Olympic women's downhill brightened a windy, gloomy day in the Italian Alps on Wednesday.
Martina Schild of Switzerland won the silver and Anja Paerson of Sweden the bronze.
Kildow, skiing 48 hours after a horrific crash in a training run put her in a hospital overnight, tied for eighth with Alexandra Meissnitzer of Austria, 1.29 seconds behind the winner. Julia Mancuso was the top U.S. finisher in seventh.
"The pain was something I was going to take no matter what, said Kildow, who described herself as "maybe 70 percent, bothered more by soreness in her back than but her severely bruised hip.
Still, remarkable as it was just to race, the ever-competitive Kildow expected better.
"I knew this course inside and out, so it's disappointing, she said.
Meissnitzer was amazed, though.
"She has magic knees, the Austrian said. "I think it's a miracle she's already racing, and she did a good job.
Despite Austria's world dominance in ski racing, Dorfmeister, who is retiring at the end of this season, was the first from that country to win the Olympic women's downhill since Annemarie Moser-Proell won at the 1980 Lake Placid Games.
Dorfmeister has won world championships, dozens of World Cup races and the overall World Cup title but no Olympic gold before her triumphant run on the bumpy, steep course, the longest the women will ski this season.
"It's like a dream, Dorfmeister said. "I didn't sleep for two nights because I was under so much pressure. But this morning I felt very relaxed, and when I took the lift to the start, I said, `Today, I'll do it.'[pagebreak]"The elusive medal, she admitted, "was probably the thing that has kept me skiing.
She won a silver in the super-G at the Nagano Games of 1998, losing the gold by one-hundredth of a second to good friend Picabo Street.
There was nothing close about this one.
On a ski run that overlooked magnificent, jagged mountains near the French border, visibility was difficult as clouds blended in with the snow. That only added to the toughness of a course that, at just under 2 miles, is by far the longest the women will ski this season.
Dorfmeister, who already has clinched the World Cup title this season, dominated from the start, staying in a tuck over the roughest parts and gliding smoothly over the jumps. Her winning time of 1 minute, 56.49 seconds was 37-hundredths ahead of Schild, who is granddaughter of 1948 Olympic downhill gold medalist Hedy Schlunegger. Schild's silver was a surprise because she had only one top 10 finish and no medals on the World Cup circuit this season. However, Schild was fastest in Monday's downhill training run.
Paerson, two-time defending overall World Cup champion, won two medals at the 2002 Olympics, a silver in the giant slalom and bronze in the slalom.
Like Kildow, reigning Olympic gold medalist Carole Montillet-Carles offered an inspirational lesson just by competing. Her face scraped raw from a crash shortly before Kildow's on Monday, she was barely able to get her helmet on because of the pain but finished 28th.
Kildow skied from the 31st spot after escaping with only a bruised hip in Monday's crash. She spent the night in the hospital as a precaution and did not take part Tuesday in the training run that determined the first 30 starting spots.
Kildow said she probably would skip Friday's combined, which requires a downhill and two slaloms in one day, but expected to be back for the super-G on Sunday."I wanted to get a medal, she said, "but I still have more chances _ so don't give up on me yet.
Copyright © 2006 The Associated Press