An American Fairytale in St. Anton


St. Anton, Austria Jan. 30, 2001 (FIS)--Daron Rahlves, the American skiing ace, thoroughly spoiled the festivities for the Austrians, snatching the gold medal at St. Anton away from the favoured home team when he stormed into first place at the World Championship super-G today. At his heels, the Austrians Stefan Eberharter in second place, and Hermann Maier, the favourite for today's event, taking home the bronze medal.

Rahlves, who often trains with the Austrians, is the first American World Champion in 19 years. Back then, in Schladming, Steve Mahre took gold in the giant slalom. Nobody had believed Rahlves capable of such a performance, especially since he has not reached the top three in super-G World Cup events this season. The first time the 27-year-old stepped into the limelight was last year at Kvitfjell, Norway, when he won two downhill World Cup events within two days.

"You don't know how great it feels to hear the word 'World Champion'," an amazed and happy Rahlves commented, "It's crazy. This is a dream come true. And I didn't even feel so well this morning. My whole life I wanted to be the best ¿ and here we are!"

He gained the necessary self-confidence for this surprise success one week ago at Kitzbuehel, when he finished third in the downhill and fourth in the super-G at the prestigious venue on the most difficult terrain of the circuit.

"I just said to myself 'give everything you've got just like in Kitzbuehel'. That I would be that good, I never dared to hope," the Californian beamed proudly.

Just before Rahlves started on the slope, it looked like history would repeat itself: In 1991, Eberharter became World Champion in super-G at Saalbach ¿ just like the American did today ¿ as a surprise to everyone including himself. Today, however, he missed out on the title by 0.08 seconds due to the exceptional performance by the American. The Tyrolean took defeat in the true spirit of sport with a smile: "Daron did a super run. I can only congratulate him on his excellent performance."

Maier spoiled all his chances for the title in the top part of the course when he committed a time-consuming mistake. "I'm not very disappointed. After all, I won two Olympic and two World Championship titles in my career to date," the 'Herminator' commented, who pocketed 17 of the last 27 super-G races.