Maier, Kjus fit to be tied at Worlds |

Maier, Kjus fit to be tied at Worlds

Dana Jo Turvey, Tribune Correspondent

VAIL, Colo. – Going into the men’s World Alpine Ski Championships speed events, it’s been a toss-up who would conquer overall and downhill leader, Lasse Kjus of Norway or current super-G king and last season’s overall winner Hermann Maier from Austria. They reached a gentleman’s compromise by tying for the win on Beaver Creek’s acclaimed new speed course ‘Birds of Prey.’

In an unusually tight top three, Kjus and Maier shared the time of 1:14.53, while third went to Hans Knauss after scoring 1:14.54, again for Austria. If Knauss had drummed up another one one-hundredth of a second, there would have been a three way split for first position. This is still the first time since the 1937 start of the Worlds that there has been a tie for gold.

Chad Fleischer from the U.S. Team, and a Vail local, held a temporary lead, but couldn’t continue dodging Austrian bullets. His strong run on a hometown course brought the best American finish with sixth place in 1:14.81. Teammate Daron Rahlves of Truckee, CA was the next best U.S. racer, placing thirteenth, while Bode Miller landed in twenty-fourth spot. Paul Casey Puckett was one of only two racers to not finish the race.

Chad Fleischer, who hasn’t placed better than 11th in his World Cup career, described his World Championship run, “I was talking to Daron about it last night; how it’s just another day for me because my training has been so intense. I didn’t feel like suddenly, coming to the Worlds, that I had to turn it up. But then they told us the bib numbers, and I was three, and it was like ‘oh.’ It felt like someone had socked me in the stomach, because then the reality hit. I thought, wow – I’m breaking in this race, right here in my hometown.”

He continued by saying, “This is my home and I’m having a great time. I love skiing more than I ever have in my whole life. It’s been a long time coming (#6 result) and I think that attitude and mindset has a lot to do with what went on today. Because you have to have fun and you have to love the sport – to feel like that propels you.”

Racers spent the previous evening nervously watching the weather channel, after an unexpected snow storm postponed the women’s super G. Daron Rahlves explained, “Yesterday, I was praying that it would clear up, but I’m amazed it turned around like this. It’s outstanding. You couldn’t ask for a better day. Personally, I felt really good about my race today. Earlier in the season, I came back on snow totally physically ready to go, but mentally I was struggling.

“Coming down a course, once in awhile it would pop into my head what would happen if I crashed in a tough section. Now, I’ve been ready to roll and just keep a simple focus. But up top I made a mistake on timing at one turn. I paid big; I played catch-up for three turns. This course is so challenging that you have no chance if you don’t stick every turn.”

For those racers able to ‘stick’ each turn, Lasse Kjus and Hermann Maier, there was no problem sharing the award. Kjus said, “It is great, I’m very happy with this win. Number one is still number one.”

The Herminator continued, “I have won the World Championship for super G. It is still a win. It’s wonderful – Olympic Champion, World Cup Champion and now World Champion. Now I have it all. Maybe I’ll go fishing…”

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