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Dorfmeister hot as she heads into final racing season

Dorfmeister hot as she heads into final racing season{mosimage}LAKE LOUISE, Alberta – Entering what she says will be her final season of competitive skiing, Michaela Dorfmeister has 21 World Cup victories, a world super-G championship and an Olympic silver medal.

Conspicuously absent is an Olympic gold, and the way the 32-year-old Austrian has performed in training runs at Lake Louise in preparation for this week’s women’s World Cup races, that vacancy could be filled before she hangs up her skis for good.

”This was the motivation to go one more year,” she said.

What would a gold medal at the Torino Games mean?

”It’s a perfect career for my life,” she said.

Dorfmeister had by far the fastest downhill training run on Wednesday at 1 minute, 49.49 seconds. Sylviane Berthod of Switzerland was second at 1:50.43. Dorfmeister’s Austrian teammate and rival Alexandra Meissnitzer was third at 1:50.46.

Dorfmeister was second-fastest in Wednesday’s first trial run at 1:52.80, then shaved more than three seconds off that time. ”I was very surprised that I was so fast,” she said. ”I played with the run today and it was very easy for me.”

Dorfmeister has a rabid following of fans throughout Europe, where she once carried a pet rat from race to race. The rat has passed on, and her two guinea pigs stay at home with her mother. She helped build her house this summer.

”It’s interesting. It’s good for my mind,” she said of her carpentry work. ”I don’t think always on skiing.”

Dorfmeister said she feels more at ease after making her decision to retire at the end of the season. ”I’m very relaxed,” she said. ”I have fun when I go down. I think that’s the important thing.”

She won’t miss the travel, she said, and the trek from Europe to the Canadian Rockies might be the most challenging of all. But she decided to make the journey because of the success she has enjoyed here in recent years. Dorfmeister won the super-G at Lake Louise last year, was second in the downhill and super G here in 2004, and second in the downhill in 2002.

”It’s a classic race for us at LakeLouise,” she said.

An arctic front swept over Alberta in recent days, dipping the temperature at the start of Wednesday’s run to 5 degrees (minus-15 Celsius).

Many racers wore tape across their faces to try to reduce the biting cold as they sped down the mountain. ”You don’t really notice it until you get down to the finish,” said Canadian skier Kelly Vanderbeek. ”I was so tempted to get out of my tuck and just put my hands on my face to try to warm it up.”

There will be one more training run on Thursday, then the first women’s World Cup downhills of the season are set for Friday and Saturday. The meet concludes with a super G race on Sunday.

- The Associated Press

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