Daron Rahlves, world's top active downhiller, reacts to Stephan Eberharter's retirement


Daron Rahlves, world’s top active downhiller, reacts to Stephan Eberharter’s retirement{mosimage}Daron Rahlves, of Sugar Bowl, California, who became the number one active men’s downhill racer on the World Cup tour last week with the retirement of Austrian Stephan Eberharter, paid tribute Tuesday to his friendly foe as “a great competitor, a great and true champion.” He added, “And I’d like to get one more crack at him in Kitzbühel,” referring to the sport’s centerpiece race, the Hahnenkamm downhill.

Rahlves, training in Portillo with the U.S. downhillers, has been second to Eberharter in the World Cup downhill standings for the last two seasons. When he won the super G gold medal at the 2001 World Championships, Eberharter was silver medalist; they have shared the podium multiple times, including last season when Rahlves won the Chevy Truck Birds of Prey downhill in Beaver Creek, Colorado (with Eberharter second) and in the season’s final downhill in Sestriere, Italy, (when Rahlves won and Eberharter finished third).

Although the Austrian’s retirement makes Rahlves the top active World Cup downhiller, the Californian shrugged off the honor. “I need to ascend the throne on my own, rather than have someone retire,” he said.

“It’s tough, though, to see one of the ultimate competitors leave; Steph’s a great guy, a great skier and we’ve become pretty good friends in the last few years. We had some good battles and it was always fun to go up against him because he was always a fast skier. If I was sitting at the bottom with a lead, I never felt comfortable if he hadn’t come down yet because he was so fast.”

“His retirement doesn’t make it any easier. He’s the guy who beat me two years in a row,” the Californian said, “but there are still a lot of good guys out there. You can never think you have it made. It won’t be any easier chance to win a race, or take the title – you never can let your guard down because that’s when you’ll get taken down.”

Eberharter’s retirement – announced last Friday – was “a little bit of a surprise,” he said, because he thought the popular Austrian, who won two World Cup overall titles plus five event titles (three in DH, two in super G), was going to retire at the end of the 2004 World Cup season after winning his third straight downhill title. When he didn’t announce his retirement, Rahlves said, he started to hear Eberharter would be back for a limited number of races.

Still, he’s happy Eberharter “is going out on top and on his terms. When an athlete retires, you like to see ‘em retire on their terms, not because they’re injured, or were getting frustrated and no longer were able to compete. Steph was a true champion.”

“And I’d like to get one more crack at him in Kitzbühel,” Rahlves said. “I always want to have all the best guys out there on race day. When you win with all the guys around, it makes it that much more rewarding.”

“Steph lit it up out there. He was an animal on the hill…really, one of the ultimate competitors.”

U.S. Alpine Director Jesse Hunt echoed Rahlves, praising Eberharter “because he always was such a class act. He had great success early, winning those titles [super G and combined] at the World Championships in ’91. And then he had those knee injuries and battled back, coming up through the Europa Cup to get back on the Austrian team, to get back to the World Cup…and he was always gracious, always appreciative. He’s a great ambassador for skiing and we certainly wish him the best of everything.”

Click here to read about Eberharter’s September 17 announcement

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