Friday, January 20, 2006

Rahlves joins Picabo with nine DH wins

Can Rahlves repeat 2003 success at Hahnenkamm?

Daron Rahlves flies to victory on the legendary Lauberhorn downhill course in Switzerland on Saturday.

While Bode Miller keeps straddling gates and putting his foot in his mouth with his comments, U.S. Ski Team mate Daron Rahlves keeps quietly attaining his goals—like winning Saturday's 76th Lauberhorn downhill at Wengen, Switz.

Sugar Bowl (Ca.) racer Rahlves, 32, is making his 13th year on the U.S. Ski Team his best. At Wengen he captured his third downhill win of the 2005-06 World Cup season by .40 seconds over Austria's Michael Walchhofer. Rahlves said, "I put it all together. I put down a great run."

With his ninth career downhill victory on the longest course of the season, Rahlves (2 minutes, 30.54 seconds) tied Sun Valley's Picabo Street as the most successful U.S. downhillers ever. Rahlves now has 12 career World Cup triumphs.

Now, the question is whether Rahlves can keep his downhill focus and become a two-time winner of the fabled Hahnenkamm downhill this weekend at Kitzbuehel, Austria.

The 66th running of the world's most prestigious downhill is Saturday, Jan. 21. Rahlves won the Hahnenkamm on a fog-shortened course in 2003, becoming the first American since Buddy Werner in 1959 to win the Kitzbuehel DH. He was fifth and second the last two years in Hahnenkamms captured by Austria's Stephan Eberharter and Walchhofer.

Miller, meanwhile, apologized last week for comments he made on a television show about his drinking. Say what you want about reigning World Cup overall champion Miller, however, but he shows up at the starting line—having made 134 consecutive World Cup starts including three last weekend at Wengen.

Tenth-year national team racer Miller, 28, DNFd Friday's super combined but tied for 11th in Saturday's DH won by Rahlves. Then, on Sunday, Miller posted his first slalom finish in five races with an eighth-place in the Wengen slalom. Italy's Giorgio Rocca won his fifth straight slalom and rising U.S. gate star Ted Ligety, 21, of Park City finished fifth.

In the 20 races to date, Miller has eight DNFs.

Bringing World Cup standings up to date, Austria's Benjamin Raich, 27, retained his overall lead with 706 points. Giant slalom leader Raich was Sunday's first-run slalom leader at Wengen but he straddled a gate. In second place with 600 points is Walchhofer, second place in DH.

Third place belongs to Rahlves with 589 points (3rd-DH, 6th-SG, 10th-GS), while Miller is in fourth place with 545 points (6th-DH, 17th-SG, 6th-GS, 8th-combined). Slalom leader Rocca is fifth with 536 points.

Hahnenkamm weekend features downhill, SG and slalom Jan. 20-22. Rahlves hopes he'll make another walk there through the Strasse Der Sieger (Tunnel of Champions).

Kostelic reaches a milestone

Janica Kostelic, 23, of Croatia just keeps rolling. She stretched her women's overall lead to 252 last weekend at Bad Kleinkirchheim, Austria and made history in the process—becoming the first woman to claim wins in six different disciplines.

Three-time Olympic champion Kostelic captured her first-ever World Cup SG Sunday, ahead of Austrians Michaela Dorfmeiser and Alexandra Meissnitzer. Twelfth-year U.S. racer Kirsten Clark, 28, of Maine was fourth, her best result in the speed events this season.

Preceding the Bad Kleinkirchheim SG were two downhills—Kostelic winning Saturday's DH and two-time defending World Cup overall queen Anja Paerson, 24, of Sweden taking Friday's test. It was Paerson's second career DH victory. Best U.S. results: Lindsey Kildow ninth Friday and Julia Mancuso 15th Saturday.

Slalom co-leader Kostelic now has 982 points, ahead of 32-year-old SG pacesetter Dorfmeiser (730) and giant slalom leader Paerson (685). Until last week the downhill leader, 21-year-old Vail skier Kildow fell to sixth in the overall standings (520). She is 25 points off Dorfmeiser's lead.

Next for the women are downhill, SG and super combined Jan. 20-22 at St. Moritz, Switz. The 2006 U.S. Olympic Team will be named Jan. 25.

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