Maier wins fourth straight race |

Maier wins fourth straight race

BEAVER CREEK, Colo. – Auf Wiedersehen, America. Hermann Maier has come to town, conquered our hills and won all of our races.

He now heads north to Lake Louise, Canada to try more of the same. At the Beaver Creek, Colo., downhill and super-G races, the “Hermannater” swept the top medals by a wide margin.

In Saturday’s 42-gate downhill race, his time was 1:43.77. Second place went to fellow Austrian, Stefan Eberharter, with 1:44.68, while Italy’s Kristian Ghedina grabbed third with his time of 1:44.89.

The only American in the points was Vail’s Chad Fleischer, finishing his run in 1:46.23. Daron Rahlves of Truckee crashed out.

Shrugging off his fall, Rahlves said, “This was my mistake. I just took my tuck a little too far off Screech Owl jump. I took it with too much speed. Last year when I fell here, the conditions burned me. I burned myself today.”

He continued with talk of his new Atomic skis.

“I used a new pair of super-G skis today; they were becoming my favorites. But I bent one way back when I crashed – they’re ruined. First race of the year and they’re toast,” Rahlves said wryly.

Joining him on the did not finish list were an unlucky 13 other racers; a list that could have included Maier…

One third into his winning run, the top Austrian tore out an eight-inch

section of ski edge.

“I found a big rock not so late in the course. My ski was very damaged and I don’t know how I could ski so well to the finish. I was very surprised,” he nonchalantly explained.

Not so surprising was Maier’s super-G win the next day with his score of 1:16.51. Second once more was Eberharter in 1:17.45. Last winter’s overall winner, Lasse Kjus, finally got his season going with his first podium victory. The Norwegian took third place with his time of 1:17.64.

Team USA fared better in Sunday’s super-G. Rahlves was back in form,

taking a strong run to 14th spot with 1:18.35. Bode Miller used his trademark “attack from the back” to move a starting position of 57th into a finish of 23rd. His score was 1:19.27. Fleischer was the third American to land in the top 30, placing 26th with his time of


Rahlves, pleased with his placement after his previous crash, called his run down Birds of Prey definitely the toughest super-G he’d ever skied. “Every right-hand turn has a fall away and every left-hand turn is kind of banked. You’ve got to be on top the whole time,” he said. “If you get a little off balance, you lose ground. All the Austrians, Lasse Kjus too, are so well balanced on their skis. I think it’s the power of discipline and just being right there all the time.”

The Beaver Creek super-G marked Maier’s 22nd career win in his three winters on the circuit. This places him ninth in the history of ski racing, one up on the career total of legendary Jean-Claude Killy. Still ahead of Maier are names like Marc Girardelli (46 wins), Alberto Tomba (50) and Ingemar Stenmark (86). For now, he Austrian left no doubts that he’s currently the strongest, fastest, most consistent ski racer in the world.

Staying close to his heels is teammate Stefan Eberharter.

Claiming a less-known pedigree than his brick-laying counterpart, Eberharter was the 1991 world champion in the super-G and combined events. After a series of injuries in the mid-90’s, he was kicked off the team and told to earn a spot the old-fashioned way – through the Europa Cup. He did so in style, winning three disciplines and the overall Europa title in 1997. He then claimed third place in the World Cup during the ’98 season.

With three wins last season, Eberharter is eager to prove again that he can beat Maier.

“Hermann doesn’t make many mistakes, that’s very important,” Eberharter said.

He has now won four races and it’s given him a little confidence. “Now, it’s very tough to beat him, but we keep on trying. That’s why we are here,” Eberharter said.

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