Originally created 02/16/02

Austrians hope to even score on Rahlves' home slopes



SNOWBASIN, Utah -- It's payback time for Austrian skiers.

A year ago, they were stunned when Daron Rahlves, an American downhiller who had never placed in the top three of any super giant slalom race, won the Super G world championship in St. Anton, Austria.

On Saturday, they'll get a chance to knock off Rahlves on his home slopes.

"He's the one who took away the gold last year at home. Maybe I can take gold away from him this year," said Stephan Eberharter, who has won three of the four World Cup Super G races this season.

Eberharter and compatriot Fritz Strobl, who won gold in the downhill last weekend, are among the favorites in the Super G - which will be run on the same Grizzly course as the downhill. Eberharter was the bronze medalist in the downhill.

Strobl said after his downhill victory that life would not change for him, but it immediately did - he developed a fever less than 48 hours after the race, and needed a cure from teammate Eberharter.

"I played the accordion for him, and now he's better," Eberharter explained with a laugh.

Rahlves has struggled this season. He placed just 16th in the downhill last Sunday and has not finished among the top three in a Super G this World Cup season.

"I'm still going in as the underdog, because those guys have been putting down some great results this year and I haven't been," Rahlves said Friday after his final training runs for the Super G. "But this would definitely be the best place to have the race of my life."

Rahlves finished fourth in a Super G in Kitzbuehel, Austria, in mid-January - similar to the fourth place he had at Kitzbuehel last year just before his world championship victory.

"I have been building toward the end of the season. I feel like my skiing has been better than my results. Things are falling into place and it's my time of the year," Rahlves said.

"I was pushing a little too much in the downhill. It really disappointed me and it was tough to swallow. I basically just came out and blew it. But my confidence is right where it needs to be."

Hermann Maier, reigning Olympic champion in the Super G and the man who has dominated the event on the World Cup circuit the last few years, is recovering from an August motorcycle accident and will not attempt to defend his crown.

Eberharter and Maier took the silver and bronze medals behind Rahlves in last year's world championships. Rahlves' victory inspired ski-mad Austrians to gather outside his hotel, chanting "Da-ron, Da-ron!"

But the victory by Rahlves, 28, from Truckee, Calif., was not a complete surprise. His strong showing at Kitzbuehel just before the world championships established him as a medal contender.

At Kitzbuehel last year, he finished fourth in the Super G - behind Maier and two other Austrians. And then he tied Eberharter for third in the downhill, trailing only Maier and Hannes Trinkl, another Austrian.

After that downhill, Austrian photographers tried to get the three Austrian medalists to stand together on the victory podium and push Rahlves to the side.

But Eberharter kept pushing Rahlves to the center of the podium and stepping outside of him, ensuring the American a spot in the winners' picture.

Rahlves hopes he's back in that frame on Saturday.

"Rahlves is one of the favorites," Strobl said. "He has a great public behind him. He'll be one of the best if he's on form."