Rahlves leads revived American charge
Rahlves makes World Cup historyIt was an historic day for the U.S. Ski Team Dec. 7 at the Beaver Creek Birds of Prey World Cup downhill as Daron Rahlves led an American charge with his third place result, 38-hundredths of a second off winner Stephan Eberharter’s pace. Marco Sullivan placed sixth and Olympic silver medallist Bode Miller claimed the eighth place spot.The American results marked the first time in 20 years that three U.S. men have finished in the top ten of a World Cup downhill event and the first time since 1984 that an American man has been on the downhill podium in a U.S. race.Austria’s Eberharter the reigning World Cup overall and downhill champion, took flight down the steep and icy course from the 30th start position, posting a time of 1:40.18, one tenth of a second ahead of teammate Michael Walchhofer, who claimed the runner-up position. “I think there will be a pretty good party tonight in Tahoe,” Rahlves offered, referring to his and Sullivan’s results.Prior to today, Rahlves had struggled on the Birds of Prey, falling or missing gates in his previous outings on the Beaver Creek course. A self-admitted slow starter in the early season, Rahvles got the monkey off his back with an aggressive run from the 37th start position.Rounding out the top five were Olympic downhill gold medallist Fritz Stobl of Austria in fourth and Switzerland’s Didier Cuche in fifth. Other American finishers included Jake Fiala of Frisco, Colorado in 23rd and Scott MacCartney of Redmond, Washington in 41st.Super Super-G for Switzerland.The Austrian abbreviation AUT that so often clutters the top rankings in downhill and super-G was interrupted Dec. 8 by a few letters that, recently, are not so common: LIE and SUI.It was a banner day for the Swiss ski team, which stole first place with Didier Cuche’s top time of 1 minute, 18.83 seconds, and placed four racers in the top 10.And even though the LIE abbreviation tagged onto Liechtenstein’s Marco Beuchel (1:18.91) marks him as a citizen of Europe’s second-smallest country, he trains with the Swiss ski team, is taught by Swiss coaches and helped contribute to the overall Swiss dominance of the first men’s super-G of the World Cup season.After drenching each other in champagne, the two quasi-teammates ribbed each other about their 1-2 finish."Next time it’s going to be the other way around," Beuchel said."It doesn’t matter if you win," Cuche said, "as long as I’m second."The Austrians still made their mark by the performance of third-place finisher Hannes Trinkl (1:18.93) and ninth-place finisher Hans Knauss (1:19.54). Last year’s overall World Cup champion and race favorite Stephan Eberharter finished 15th (1:20.09).The American team managed to score points for four racers in the top-30, led by two-time silver medalist and sixth-place finisher Bode Miller (1:19.12).Perhaps the most surprising American finish came from Erik Schlopy, who hadn’t raced a super-G since he took the professional super-G crown in the now-defunct professional skiing circuit in 1998. Schlopy was 22nd (1:20.35). He was bested by teammate Thomas Vonn (1:19.98) at 13th place, and followed by upstart Jakub Fiala of Frisco, who continued to climb the ranks by grabbing 26th in 1:20.79 despite starting 58th.The next men’s World Cup event is Dec. 12-15 Val d’Isere, France, super-G and downhill.Vail’s Sarah Schleper took some technical advice from Bode Miller, and it seems to be working. The lifelong local tied for eighth place Dec. 12 at a World Cup giant slalom in Val d’Isere, France, leading four American women into the top 30.Italy’s Karen Putzer took the first-run lead and went on to collect her second consecutive victory, edging Sonja Nef, the defending World Cup and world GS champion.Outdoor Life Network will televise coverage of the season’s third GS Saturday, Dec. 14, at 3 p.m. EST.Schleper, ninth in the first run, tied Austrian Nicole Hosp for eighth (2:23.35), with Steamboat Springs’ Caroline Lalive 17th, Maine’s Kirsten Clark 22nd and Minnesota’s Kristina Koznick 29th."It was a good day for us because GS is not our strongest event, but Sarah had a good race her best GS in two years and Caroline came from No. 55 start to get her best giant slalom in three years. I was really happy with Sarah’s race and Caroline’s placing gives us another quota spot in GS," said head coach Marjan Cernigoj. "We were able to bring the intensity from Canada to Val d’Isere, which was excellent."We had a long, cold week at Lake Louise, and I was concerned about people getting sick, but they’ve all been healthy and today they had that fire again," he added.The women completed their visit to Val d’Isere Dec. 13 with the third super-G of the season.Triple championships a possibilityThe Vail Valley Foundation’s Ceil Folz says Vail and Beaver Creek are considering hosting a triple-world championships in 2009.The idea is to host the World Alpine Ski Championships, the World Freestyle Championships, and the World Snowboarding Championships all at the same time at the same venue.”It really came from (watching) the Olympics,” Folz said. “It’ll be a long time before the Olympics could or would come to this state. If we take the freestyle, alpine and snowboarding segments of the Olympics and bring it here, it makes sense for us and we could turn it into a major, major event.”Folz says the International Ski Federation, which is the governing body for all three events, is considering the possibility of opening talks with Vail about the combo event. The United States Ski and Snowboard Association has already given Vail verbal backing on bidding for the event, but the VVF has yet to make the bid.”It’s just an idea, and we want to see if this is feasible and if this is possible,” Folz said.Birds of Prey endangeredBeaver Creek has only been forced to cancel one World Cup in 20 years, but its 5-year-old Birds of Prey downhill World Cup race, noted as one of the top-three most difficult in the world, may not happen next year.A new World Cup schedule would bump the Beaver Creek event to Thanksgiving weekend. The influx of recreational skiers during that week, coupled with a World Cup event, may be too straining for event organizers, especially since snowmaking efforts could be thwarted by warm weather.”We have left things sitting with the FIS right now,” Folz said. “The (U.S.) Ski team wants us to hold a race next year, we want to hold a race, but we’re on a date right now that is a severe challenge for us. For us to move (the date), the entire FIS calendar would have to be reconstructed.”Local rider shows well at equestrian championshipsLongtime local and real estate broker DeDe Dickinson proved to be one of the top participants in the 2002 American Quarter Horse Association World Championships. Dickinson competed in the Amateur Division of the Working Cowhorse Class, where she had to compete against 48 top riders in the preliminaries before going on to the finals, where she placed 13th.Dickinson has been showing horses for six years and started with this most difficult of disciplines partly because she says she “saw a video of the event and it looked like so much fun," and because she "really had no idea it was so difficult to master all the maneuvers, to be able to do well.