Canceled Downhill Strengthens Walchhofer

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February 4, 2006

CHAMONIX, France (AP by Erica Bulman)—The next-to-last World Cup downhill of the season was canceled because of heavy fog Saturday, strengthening Austrian Michael Walchhofer's chances of defending his season title.

Austrian Fritz Strobl and American Daron Rahlves will have a difficult time catching Walchofer, who leads the downhill standings with 498 points. Strobl has 441 points and Rahlves has 408.

The International Ski Federation said the downhill will not be rescheduled, leaving only one remaining downhill race next month in Are, Sweden.

"This is done, race director Guenter Hujara said. "There is no chance to reschedule it because we have no more dates open. There is no better answer. We tried our best today.

The start was delayed several times _ with fans waiting 2 1/2 hours in the cold of the finish area _ before officials gave up.

To take the title, Rahlves needs to win the downhill in Are, hope Walchhofer finishes out of the top 15 and have Strobl place out of the top four. Only the top 15 score points at finals.

Rahlves won three downhills this season but finished out of the top-10 on three other occasions. He plans to retire at the end of the season.

"At the beginning of the season it was a big goal, it would be the best thing I could do to end my ski career by winning the downhill title, but I've had too many bad races, Rahlves said. "I'm not really focused on the downhill title anymore. It's more about getting through this week feeling good. Then (the Olympics) is where I want to smash it to pieces.

Copyright © 2006 The Associated Press