|ESPN.com: Alpine Skiing||[Print without images]|
|Antoine Deneriaz turned and saw his run time in utter disbelief.|
"Right after the operation, I said 'I'm going to make it. The Olympics only happen once every four years and I'm going to make it.' The first month of rehab was really difficult, but all that time, I was thinking about the Olympics."
While you might expect the top dogs to be disappointed in an upset on their biggest stage, among the brotherhood of downhillers, a race like Deneriaz's is not only understood, it's respected. After all, .20 seconds can be explained by a gust of wind. But .72? That's a whole other level. "That guy was possessed!" said Rahlves, who made no secret of the fact that the Olympic downhill gold was his goal at the beginning of this season. Rahlves, who looked nearly unbeatable on this Kandahar Banchetta course earlier in the week, was satisfied with his run, saying he gave it everything he had. "Obviously, it would have taken a hurricane wind to get me to first," said Bode Miller, who was just .05 seconds out of a bronze medal until Deneriaz came down pushing him to fifth. "I don't think [Deneriaz] did anything that was that much better. I've said it before, the variables that go into this sport are huge." As Deneriaz showed, when those variables magically align, the result is equally impressive. The champ barely had time to get his skis off before Walchhofer and Kernen were by his side, giving him congratulatory hugs. Still, it wasn't until he walked into the racer's tent in the finish area that his achievement finally sunk in.
"He walked into the tent with a look of pure joy on his face," Buechel said. "And I looked at him and said 'Champion Olympique!'" "Say it again," Deneriaz responded. "Champion Olympique!" "Say it again," the golden boy said, "it sounds so beautiful." Carrie Sheinberg, three-time national ski racing champion and top American finisher in the alpine slalom event at the 1994 Olympic Games in Lillehammer, is a frequent contributor to ESPN.com.