Saturday, February 16, 2002
Defending world champ falls short in Super G
SNOWBASIN, Utah -- In an event that demanded courage and
confidence, Daron Rahlves' last hope for Olympic success was doomed
On his home country's snow, the defending world champion in the
super giant slalom felt this was his best chance for gold. Yet on a
steep, unforgiving course he described as "the toughest and
trickiest" he'd ever seen, Rahlves finished eighth.
The disappointing Super G finish Saturday came six days after he
was 16th in the giant slalom.
"It's been a lot of effort trying to come into Salt Lake and
make it happen," he said. "The ultimate was to come out with a
gold medal. That's what I wanted. To not even be on the podium,
it's a hard thing to take right now."
Rahlves, 28, was America's only legitimate medal hope in the two
speed events dominated by Europeans.
In the packed grandstands at the finish line, a banner read
"Team USA Rocks, Go Big `D' Go, Daron Rahlves Fan Club."
Rahlves, 5-foot-9, is dwarfed by the big, powerful Austrians who
dominate the World Cup speed events. Still, he talked confidently
of his chances at the Salt Lake City Games, especially after
finishing ahead of Hermann Maier and Stephan Eberharter to win the
Super G world championship at St. Anton, Austria, last year.
But he failed to build on the momentum of last season's strong
finish and never was better than fourth in a World Cup race this
"Daron's been under a tremendous amount of pressure," said
teammate Thomas Vonn, who finished a surprising ninth. "He's the
poster boy, you know. He's the guy that's marked to do it all.
That's a lot of weight to carry. I know he's skiing well, but he's
just probably trying too hard. He's a good enough skier to be
getting gold medals."
Unlike the downhill, where there are two training runs, the
Super G allows no practice on the course, just a brief inspection
shortly before the race. Rahlves saw it and realized how tough it
was. He wound up being so concerned about finishing that he didn't
push it enough.
"I came out safe when I could have gone in there with a little
more heat and been a little more aggressive," said Rahlves, from
Truckee, Calif. "That's what you don't want. I was just being a
little too cautious in a few spots."
Briefly, Rahlves thought he might still get a medal, as several
of the top skiers, including Didier Cuche of Switzerland and
downhill silver medalist Lasse Kjus of Norway, slid off the course
on the treacherous, steep face approaching the finish line.
"I thought I might barely hang in there," Rahlves said. "On a
course like this, you never know."
The hope faded in a hurry as Eberharter moved into second
despite a big mistake and eventually took the silver. All four
Austrians finished ahead of the fastest American.
Rahlves was 0.90 seconds behind gold medalist Kjetil Andre
Aamodt of Norway and trailed bronze medalist Andreas Schifferer by
Vonn, 26, of Newburgh, N.Y., skied out of the No. 33 starting
position for by far his best Super G finish in a major
The strong showing Saturday, he said, will give him momentum
going into his best event, the giant slalom, Thursday.
Rahlves will return to the World Cup circuit for the last two
downhills and last two Super Gs of the season.
"It didn't happen here. I've got to walk away from Salt Lake
with a turnout I didn't want -- no medals," he said. "It's just
tough, but there are more races, and everyday I get to put on skis
is a good day."