Strobl Wins Downhill Gold


Snowbasin, Utah Feb. 10, 2002 (AP Rob Gloster)--Fritz Strobl, long overshadowed by more illustrious Austrians, took advantage of a big mistake by teammate Stephan Eberharter to win the Olympic men's downhill Sunday.

Strobl, a 29-year-old police officer who had never won a medal in a major international competition, was the sixth Austrian to win the downhill in the 15 races since Alpine skiing made its Olympic debut in 1948.

The lanky Strobl covered the 1.9 miles down the dizzyingly steep Grizzly course in 1 minute, 39.13 seconds. After seeing the giant scoreboard at the finish area, he thrust both arms high in the air.

Lasse Kjus of Norway won his fourth Olympic medal, finishing second in 1:39.35. Eberharter, the pre-race favorite who has clinched this year's World Cup downhill title, was third in 1:39.41.

Even without the injured Hermann Maier, Austria dominated the event as usual--with three skiers among the top six finishers. Since the inception of Olympic Alpine skiing, Austrians have won 16 of the 46 men's downhill medals.

The top American was 21-year-old Marco Sullivan of Tahoe City, Calif., who came from the 31st starting position to finish ninth. No other U.S. skier cracked the top 15.

Racers were cheered at the bottom of the course by flag-waving, cowbell-ringing fans, many of whom arrived after the start of the race because of massive traffic backups leading to the ski area.

Eberharter, skiing ninth, got a fast start, but had trouble controlling his skis halfway down the course. His time was the best up to that point, but his lead did not last long.

The next skier was Strobl, who had a nearly flawless run. His skis bit into the snow, made icier and faster by injections of water. When Strobl's time was posted, Eberharter hardly blinked.

Three skiers later, Kjus sped past Eberharter into second place. Kjus was the silver medalist in the downhill at the 1998 Nagano Olympics.

Copyright © 2000 The Associated Press