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KITZBUEHEL, Austria, Jan. 25 2004 (AP by Erica Bulman)–Stephan Eberharter won the World Cup’s most prestigious downhill Saturday with a commanding victory over Daron Rahlves that bolstered the pride of the Austrian team.
Eberharter covered the Streif course on Hahnenkamm mountain in 1 minute, 55.48 seconds. He was 1.21 seconds faster than Rahlves, the American who won last year.
“It was tougher than ever today,” Eberharter said. “I heard Daron’s times and thought ‘Oh, my God.’ I knew I had to attack like crazy.”
Switzerland’s Ambrosi Hoffmann was third. Rahlves’ teammate, Bode Miller, tied for 16th.
Last year, the Austrians did not finish among the top three before their home fans. This time, Eberharter produced a margin of victory that was the fourth largest for a Kitzbuehel downhill.
“I have never shown such emotions,” he said. “It is most likely my last time here and it was a dream run.” Rahlves, who won Friday’s super giant slalom, was timed in 1:56.69.
“Steph was amazing,” said Rahlves, of Sugar Bowl, Calif. “He was so fast and I’m happy for him. I have no idea how he was that fast. Probably he found a shortcut.”
Eberharter had been in a slump the last couple of months, struggling with a throat problem. He thinks he is skiing as well as ever but is considering retirement.
“In two months I’ll be 35,” he said. “That’s pretty old in this business. I feel fit, but once you decide to continue you have to go 100 percent.”
Rahlves’ downhill victory in Kitzbuehel last year was criticized by Austrian star Hermann Maier because it came on a shortened course. Rahlves was angered by the comment.
“If he knew me better he’d have known he was only adding fuel to the fire,” Rahlves said. “It motivated me even more.”
Maier finished ninth in Saturday’s downhill and was fourth in Thursday’s downhill. Thursday’s winner, Norway’s Lasse Kjus, finished 11th.
Kjus leads the overall standings with 764 points, followed by Maier (714) and Austria’s Benjamin Raich (698). Eberharter overtook teammate Michael Walchhofer for the lead in the downhill standings.
Hoffmann was a surprising third in 1:56.78, recording his team’s first top-three finish this season.
“People in the street have asked us what was wrong,” he said. “We need to work hard and catch up, fight back against the Austrians.”
Canada’s Jeff Hume crashed and sustained a bruised chest and concussion. He was flown to a hospital in St. Johann, and his coaches said he will miss next week’s races in Germany.
Copyright © 2000 The Associated Press