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Kitzbuehel, Austria, Jan. 19, 2002– It was an empty feeling for the U.S. Ski Team in Kitzbuehel Saturday. Daron Rahlves (Sugar Bowl, CA), who came in as a favorite after a fourth in Friday’s super G, gambled on a new line through the Steilhang and crashed into the netting as Austrian Stephan Eberharter took the win in 1:54.21. Jake Fiala (Breckenridge, CO) was the top American in 29th.
ESPN will broadcast the famed downhill Sunday at 5:00 p.m. EST.
It was a frustrating day for Rahlves, who had been confident of his chances on the fabled Streif.
“I wanted to ski a cocky line today (through the Steilhang) and ski it cocky,” said Rahlves. “I guess we were going a little faster coming in there today, then I hit the road and hit the fence. But I would rather crash than not go fast.”
With his smaller size, Rahlves wanted to ski a different line than some of the other heavier racers to keep as much speed as possible through the Steilhang, a steep section just 500 meters into the 3,300-meter course.
Rahlves was bumped and banged around on the hard, icy track coming through the Steilhang, then got wide to the left — as many racers did — and glanced skis first into the smooth fencing, losing both of his Atomic skis and bending one badly.
He later skied down under his own power, but picked up too much speed off the Zielschuss jump at the bottom and lost a ski coming into the finish area.
Eberharter was the clear pre-race favorite and he gave the 50,000 Austrian fans everything they bargained for, winning by .37 over the incomparable Kjetil Andre Aamodt of Norway, who will likely dominate in the combined downhill-slalom scoring Sunday.
Fiala had his second World Cup point-scoring finish of the season, but was left disappointed. “My goal had been a top 20,” said the Breckenridge ski racer. “I skied the top way better and down here, where I’ve skied top-10 all week, it was awful. It’s afine line, just pushing too hard today and tried to get away with too much. Some key sections like Steilhang I got too low and down here just fighting in places where you have to pick up speed. It’s a tough hhill and if you score points here, it’s sweet. I would have liked to have done better but it’s still better than in the past.”
Scott Macartney (Redmond, WA) was the most disappointed racer on the day, despite getting his first Hahnenkamm finish in 47th. “My goal had been a top-30, and that was realistic after I was 35th in training,” said Macartney, who celebrated his 24th birthday Saturday. “I thought I could just clean up some stuff and I could do it.”
While many rookies look at their first time getting down the Streif as a success in and of itself, not Macartney. He refused to latch onto the rationalization that finishing was a success — “I guess I don’t want to use those excuses for myself!”
Hahnenkamm weekend wraps up Sunday with the slalom, where Bode Miller will lead a talented group of six U.S. skiers into the race. Miller, with two World Cup wins, along with Chip Knight (New Canaan, CT) and Casey Puckett (Aspen, CO) with two top-20 World Cup finishes, are in the driver’s seat for Olympic selection. Sacha Gros (Vail, CO), Erik Schlopy (Park City, UT) and Tom Rothrock (Cashmere, WA) are battling for the remaining Olympic spot with only Sunday’s Kitzbuehel slalom and the Schladming night slalom Tuesday left before the Games.
Rahlves and the speed crew will now head for Garmisch-Partenkirchen for a pair of super G’s next weekend, the final events in the Olympic selection period. Rahlves is the only U.S. man who has met Olympic qualifying criteria with his fourth in Kitzbuehel on Friday.
‘I’m ready (for the Olympics) right now,” said Rahlves. “I’m just looking forward to some more super G’s and some more racing. I just want to get out there and have some fun.”
FIS Cafe de Colombia Alpine World Cup
Sat. Jan. 18, 2002
1. Stephan Eberharter, Austria, 1:54.21
2. Kjeetin Andre Aamodt, Norway, 1:54.58
3. Hannes Trinkl, Austria, 1:54.61
4. Kurt Sulzenbacher, Italy, 1:54.99
5. Fritz Strobl, Austria, 1:55.25
29. Jake Fiala, Breckenridge, CO, 1:57.34
47. Scott Macartney, Redmond, WA, 1:59.48
Did not finish, Daron Rahlves, Sugar Bowl, CA
Men’s Downhill Standings
1. Stephan Eberharter, Austria, 570
2. Fritz Strobl, Austria, 345
3. Kjetil Andre Aamodt, Norway, 302
4. Kurt Sulzenbacher, Italy, 266
5. Franco Cavegn, Switzerland, 253
18 Daron Rahlves, Sugar Bowl, CA, 101
27. Chad Fleischer, Vail, CO, 41
51. Jake Fiala, Breckenridge, CO, 3
52. Marco Sullivan, Squaw Valley, CA, 4