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Rahlves' Victory Is Short and Sweet

January 26, 2003|From Associated Press

KITZBUEHEL, Austria — Daron Rahlves' excitement over a milestone victory on the notorious Hahnenkamm wasn't dimin- ished by a shortened course.

Rahlves became the first American to win a men's World Cup downhill on Hahnenkamm on Saturday, charging down the shortened Streif course in 1 minute 9.63 seconds for his second downhill victory of the season.

Buddy Werner was the only other American to win a downhill on the famed Hahnenkamm, considered the most dangerous on the World Cup circuit. Werner triumphed in 1959, nine years before the World Cup was created.

Werner, a two-time Olympian, died in an avalanche in Switzerland in 1964, shortly after racing in the Innsbruck Olympics. The only other American to medal in Kitzbuehel was AJ Kitt, who was runner-up in 1992.

Rahlves joined skiing greats Franz Klammer, Karl Schranz, Hermann Maier and Jean-Claude Killy as a winner at Hahnenkamm.

"I'm just trying to soak it up right now," Rahlves said. "It's every downhiller's dream to win on the Hahnenkamm. It's the sign of a great champion, and I did that today. It's the reward of all the work I've done."

U.S. men's coach Phil McNichol said Rahlves' win was an indication of the progress the team has made.

"This is for sure a benchmark for us. It's an indication of what's going on with the team," McNichol said.

Switzerland's Didier Cuche finished second in 1:09.68. Kjetil Andre Aamodt was third in 1:09.71.

The Austrians failed to place a skier in the top three in Kitzbuehel for the first time since 1998.

Reigning World Cup overall, downhill and Super G champion Stephan Eberharter placed fourth in 1:09.72. American Bode Miller, who leads the overall World Cup standings, was eighth in 1:10.10.

The start of the race was delayed more than 2 1/2 hours because of fog. Organizers were forced to lower the start to the Alte Schneise section because of time restrictions.

As a result of the lower start, skiers skipped the Mausefalle (Mousetrap) and the Steilhung.

The Mausefalle is one of the most spectacular drops on the circuit with a 60-degree slope. It leads into the dangerous Steilhung, where skiers reach speeds of more than 60 mph.

"It's a bit disappointing we didn't start at the top," Rahlves said. "I enjoy kicking out and the Mausefalle and then the Steilhung.

"But I'll come back next year and finish it off."

Maier, who has recently returned to competition after nearly losing a leg in a motorcycle accident in August 2001, tied for sixth with Switzerland's Ambrosi Hoffmann.

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