Rahlves ready to break out on top | VailDaily.com

Rahlves ready to break out on top

Shauna Farnell
Daily file photoU.S. skier Daron Rahlves soars off the Red Tail Jump during last season's World Cup Birds of Prey downhill practice at Beaver Creek.

SOELDEN, Austria – Daron Rahlves has found himself in a position to turn down major TV appearances. This probably happens often with NBA and NFL stars, but it’s quite a feat for an American ski racer; the No. 5-ranked ski racer in the world, to be precise.”This year is as important to me as any year,” said Rahlves, who is embarking on his 13th season with the U.S. Ski Team, which opens with the first alpine World Cup event of this weekend with giant slalom in Soelden, Austria. “I train as hard and plan well as I can to be prepared for the World Cup every season, but with the Olympics, there is an added incentive,” Rahlves said via e-mail from Soelden earlier this week. “For me, it will be a big test, and I thrive off of the big events.”The California native, who is the all-time American men’s downhill and super-G World Cup winner, has yet to live up to his potential in an Olympic event. But he has certainly proved his worth on the World Cup circuit since 2002. Some of his numerous podium finishes include last year’s finish at the Beaver Creek Birds of Prey downhill, where Rahlves took second place behind teammate Bode Miller. Probably one of the most memorable moments in the history of American ski racing, Rahlves blasted across the finish line, grabbed an American flag and skated around the corral fence before embracing Miller as the flag draped over them.

Olympic rushWith the 2006 Olympics awaiting him this February in Torino, Italy, Rahlves and his recent results have suddenly been noticed by more than the usual ski-related spotlights, which are limited in the U.S. during non-Olympic years.”The media attention is much more time-consuming and there is always something to do for sponsors, mags, photo shoots,” he said. “You name it, and I’ve probably done it or been asked to.”

Under such high demand, Rahlves has had to say “no” a few times.”I’ve shot down a lot of requests mostly due to travel,” he said. “NBC wanted me out in New York City for a run through all their shows like ‘The Today Show’ and many others. But the line must be drawn somewhere. Between training, skiing and taking care of sponsor days, it’s a busy time.”Outside of his ski racing career, Rahlves has other priorities – his dog, Chevy, and his wife, Michelle, who joins him in many of his other pastimes -motocross racing, jet skiing, wake boarding and just about anything else that comes with a lot of adrenaline.”Motocross is very similar to ski racing,” said Rahlves, who has been riding dirt bikes since he was a child. “What I like most is having a mental and physical challenge like MX and having fun. Technically, the approach to the turns on skis and a bike is fairly relative. It’s the most relative sport to skiing I’ve ever done. And best of all, it’s a huge rush when you push it and find a good flow on the track.”

As for his flow on the race course, Rahlves has a few rituals to get himself tuned up before each event.”I stretch a lot to be loose and ready,” he said. “I don’t eat much before races in the morning, but drink lots of fluids to feel quick on my feet and energized. I listen to Metallica in my bus before heading up to the start, and think of how sweet it will be to crush it.”Cereal box fame not enough

Rahlves describes himself as having always been “a kid with a lot of energy.” But it wasn’t until he was 16 that he really dedicated himself to becoming the best ski racer in the world. “I set a goal to be the best in the world one day, and after I did that, I wanted to be the best, period,” he said. “That goal is what motivates me still after 10 seasons on the World Cup. Little things like a cereal box cover is cool, but standing on top of the podium at Kitzbuehel (in 2003) after winning the Hahnenkamm is the ultimate feeling I’ve ever had.”Not one to mince words, Rahlves doesn’t beat around the bush when asked if he has any Olympic goals.”Of course,” he said, “to win in SG and DH and medal in giant slalom.”

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But that’s not all he wants in the next few months.”My ultimate goal that I haven’t accomplished yet would be to win the World Cup DH title this season,” he said. “On that road I look forward to winning the Beav, Val Gardena, Wengen, Kitz, and Garmisch. Week to week is how I will take it. I want to come out swinging every race and when February rolls around, I’ll be ready.”Sports Writer Shauna Farnell can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 610, or sfarnell@vaildaily.com.Vail, Colorado

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