Walchhofer wins downhill title as Kjus wins Final race and Miller pads standings lead


Walchhofer wins downhill title as Kjus wins Final race and Miller pads standings leadLasse Kjus of Norway has won the last final of the season, Michael Walchhofer of Austria has won the downhill discipline title, and Bode Miller of Franconia, New Hampshire, has doubled his lead in the overall World Cup standings with three races left to go.

“I’ve only been racing in the downhill for basically four years,” said Walchhofer, who began as a slalom skier. “Recently I’ve been much more consistent.”

This is the sixth year in a row that an Austrian has won this title. In the last 10 years, Luc Alphand of France won three times (1995, 1996, 1997), Andreas Schifferer won once (1998), Lasse Kjus of Norway won once (1999), Hermann Maier twice (2000, 2001) and Stephan Eberharter three times (2002, 2003 and 2004).

Lasse Kjus of Norway left the World Cup last year after injuring his knee at Kitzbuehel the day after winning a race there. “I will race for one more year,” said the veteran all-rounder at the post-race press conference. “Life will go on.”

As late as mid-January, the leader in the race for the title was Bode Miller of the United States. But even Miller’s consistent top 10 appearances in the latter half of the season could not match Walchhofer’s dominance. So Miller finishes the season ranked second in the downhill standings.

“I wouldn’t change anything if I could go back,” Miller said of his run, which featured several small mistakes. “I was surprised I didn’t win.”

Speaking to reporters at the press conference, he said that the neck-and-neck race between Benjamin Raich (who finished 11th) and himself was not was “difficult” for him to endure.

“You guys confuse what’s difficult,” said Miller. “It’s not like, ‘Oh my god now I have to lift 500 pounds as opposed to lifting only 100 pounds.’ The skiing is virtually the same.”

But Miller says he is better off than Raich in this matchup: “For sure I have the advantage over him, skiing better in three events, and I have the potential to win in slalom also.”

It was sunny at Lenzerheide, with soft snow deteriorating throughout the race, something that helped Kjus greatly. The skiers inspected the course in the hour after the women’s race, then ran a training run and the race back-to-back. “It would have been nice to have another inspection,” said Miller.

Why the season ended this way…
At the start of the season, Daron Rahlves called the downhill title his number one objective for this season. But right from the start it was clear that one of his major challengers would be his own teammate, Bode Miller, who won the first two speed races of the season at Lake Louise, Canada.

‘It’s built up a fire in me, what Bode’s done’ said Rahlves the next week, right before he and Miller went 1-2 in the Birds of Prey downhill. ‘I’m stoked for him, it’s great. He won his first downhill and super G back-to-back, it’s an awesome feeling to win the Saturday and Sunday race, but it’s given me a little more push. I’d rather see a teammate ahead of me than any other guy on the tour, but I’m ready to bring it.’

The Californian finishes fourth in the standings this year a defeat he partly blames on having to miss the Wengen downhill, which he sat out with a lower-leg injury. He was runner up last year and the year before to Stephan Eberharter of Austria, who announced his retirement in late October.

The men’s downhill season was shaped by Eberharter’s departure, injuries to Didier Cuche and Antoine Deneriaz, and a game of musical chairs last summer as athletes switched to different ski brands, looking for more money and faster material. There were also pre-season retirements from Hannes Trinkl and Peter Rzehak of Austria.

Unlike last year, the downhill season saw little interference from snowstorms. This year, only the legendary Kitzbuehel downhill was cancelled (a make-up race was held a month later at Garmisch). But two downhill races, Val Gardena and Bormio , suffered from high winds, which caused several athletes to downplay the validity of the results.

Two American athletes who were expected to crack the top 20 this year, at least, were Marco Sullivan and Bryon Friedman. Sullivan sat out the whole season after injuring his knee in October. Friedman broke his lower leg in a training run at Chamonix (his several surgeries have included the insertion of a metal rod in his leg, and a skin graft to assist the healing of incisions made to relieve swelling-related pressure).

Looking to the future…
The Finals continue tomorrow with the men’s and women’s super G races. Based on tomorrow’s results, either Bode Miller or Hermann Maier will be crowned the World Cup super G champion (Maier has 424 points to Miller’s 370). In the women’s race three skiers in mathematical contention for the title: Michaela Dorfmeister (393 points), Renate Goetschl (371 points) and Kildow (346 points).

Click on these links to see results from each of this year’s World Cup downhills:
Lake Louise, CAN (winner: Bode Miller, USA)
Beaver Creek, USA (winner: Bode Miller, USA)
Val d’Isere, FRA (winner: Werner Franz, AUT)
Val Gardena, ITA (winner: Max Rauffer, GER)
Bormio, ITA (winner: Johann Grugger, AUT)
Chamonix, FRA (winner: Johann Grugger, AUT)
Wengen, SUI (winner: Michael Walchhofer, AUT)
Garmisch, GER (I) (winner: Michael Walchhofer, AUT)
Garmisch, GER (II) (winner: Michael Walchhofer, AUT)
Kvitfjell, NOR (winner: Hermann Maier, AUT)
Lenzerheide, SUI (winner: Lasse Kjus, NOR)

World Cup Finals

Men’s Downhill
Lenzerheide, Switzerland
March 10, 2005

1. Lasse Kjus, NOR 1:24.09
2. Bode Miller, USA 1:24.23
3. Fritz Strobl, AUT 1:24.27
4. Michael Walchhofer, AUT 1:24.77
4. Hermann Maier, AUT 1:24.77
6. Daron Rahlves, USA 1:24.78
7. Marco Buechel, LIE 1:24.91
8. Didier Defago, SUI 1:24.96
9. Erik Guay, CAN 1:25.17
10. Klaus Kroell, AUT 1:25.21
11. Benjamin
Raich, AUT 1:25.23
12. Alessandro Fattori, ITA 1:25.42
13. Bruno Kernen, SUI 1:26.65
14. Johann Grugger, AUT 1:25.68
15. Silvan Zurbriggen, SUI 1:25.77
16. Christoph Gruber, AUT 1:25.86
17. Andreas Schifferer, AUT 1:25.91
18. Peter Fill, ITA 1:26.12
19. Kurt Sulzenbacher, ITA 1:26.36
20. Kristian Ghedina, ITA 1:26.71
21. Max Rauffer, GER 1:27.02
No additional North Americans.

THE SCOOP

By Hank McKee

equipment
Men’s DH, Lenzerheide, March 10, 2005
Skier, Skis/boots/bindings
1 Kjus, Dynastar/Atomic/Look
2 Miller, Atomic/Atomic/Atomic
3 Strobl, Salomon/Salomon/Salomon
4 Walchhofer, Atomic/Atomic/Atomic
4 Maier, Atomic/Atomic/Atomic
6 Rahlves, Atomic/Atomic/Atomic
7 Buechel, Head/Lange/Tyrolia
8 Defago, Rossignol/Rossignol/Rossignol
9 Guay, Atomic/Atomic/Atomic
10 Kroell, Head/Lange/Tyrolia

Men’s Downhill, Lenzerheide, Switzerland, 3/10/2005. … It is the 33rd event of the men’s 37 event World Cup schedule. … One combined has been canceled, three races remain. … It is the 11th and final men’s downhill. …

It is the 18th career World Cup win for Lasse Kjus. … His fifth in DH. … It is his 2nd win of the season, the first coming in GS at Beaver Creek 12/4. … He gained 4 podium results this season with a 2nd in GS at Val d’Isere and a 2nd in combined at Wengen. …

It is the 37th career podium for Bode Miller. … The 5th in DH with all of them coming this season. … Including the World Championships, Miller has claimed 14 podiums this season with 8 wins. …

It is the 26th career podium for Fritz Strobl. … 20th in DH. … It is his 4th of the season… All 3rd place finishes… 3 in DH. …

Daron Rahlves has been sixth or better in 16 of his 23 races this season. … He was two one-hundredths from 4th place. … Erik Guay matched his 2nd best result of the season and 4th best career placing. …

Miller expands the lead in the overall standings from 52 to 108, leading Benjamin Raich (11th in race) 1428-1320. … Hermann Maier (tied 4th) is third at 1216. … Daron Rahlves is next best American in overall standings ranked fifth at 844. … Michael Walchhofer (tied for 4th) claims the DH title. … It is his first. … He fiinished with 681pts to 618 for Miller. … It was just the 2nd time all season he had not been on the podium. … He needed to finish 24th or better to ice the title. … Maier is 3rd at 451 and Rahlves fourth at 444. … Austrian men have won every DH title since Kjus in ’99.

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