Goergl holds on for super-G win
BEAVER CREEK – The future of the Austrian Men’s Alpine Ski Team is resting on strong shoulders. Stephan Goergl, the son of Traudl Hecher, a two-time Olympic bronze medalist for Austria in women’s downhill in 1960 and 1964, and older brother of Austrian women’s team member Elisabeth Goergl, won his first World Cup race Thursday in the super-G on the Birds of Prey at Beaver Creek. Goergl’s run of 1 minute, 13:40 seconds was fast enough to hold off current World Cup overall leader Bode Miller of the United States who finished second in 1:13.64. The win for the 26-year-old Goergl snapped Miller’s streak of three consecutive wins to start the season and gave the Austrian team its first victory after four races. Goergl’s teammate Mario Scheiber, only 20 years old and competing in his first season of World Cup, finished in third at 1:13.72.”I didn’t expect to win,” Goergl said. “Not me. Definitely, not me. I need definitely two or three days to realize what happened. It feels really good. I’m not too young to not handle it. I’m 26 right now and it feels good and I think I know how to handle it.”Miller was pleased with his runner-up run after failing to finish in all three races held on the Birds of Prey last season. “My streak wasn’t going to go on forever,” he said. “Second place is great. If I finished third or fourth, that would’ve been great, too.”The Austrian team had five racers finish in the top-10. Fritz Strobel, the fastest skier in Wednesday’s downhill training run, finished fifth in 1:13.93. Current overall No. 2, Hermann Maier, finished in eighth at 1:14.14 and Benjamin Raich was 10th at 1:14:36.By accumulating 80 points with his second-place finish, Miller extended his substantial lead in the overall race. He now leads with 380 points, 212 more than Maier’s 168. Austrians Hans Knauss (147), Michael Walchhofer (135) and Goergl (117) are currently Nos. 3,4,5 in the overall race with American Daron Rahlves (104), who finished 17th Thursday with a time of 1:14.56, in sixth.
Walchhofer, who started one spot in front of Rahlves with the No. 29 bib, was the biggest name in the field of 62 not to finish the race. After an early bobble in which he avoided disaster, Walchhofer completely lost control after soaring off the Golden Eagle Jump on the bottom half of the course and crashed hard.Maier also had a costly mistake when he clipped a gate near the top of the course and lost his left pole.Tobias Gruenenfelder of Switzerland (fourth, 1:13.77), Alessandro Fattori of Italy (fifth, 1:13.90), Marco Buechel of Liechtenstein (seventh, 1:14.13) and Patrick Jaerbyn of Sweden (ninth, 1:14.47) filled out the top-10.The long waitSince he ran 11th, Goergl had to wait for what felt like forever before claiming his first World Cup win. Scheiber, who ran third and was the early leader, had to wait even longer to find out he ended up in the top-three. When Miller crossed the finish line 0.24 seconds behind, Goergl said the sense of relief was overwhelming.”It was really the greatest feeling I ever had,” he said. “Bode is in such good shape and it feels so great to stay in the lead when he finished.”Scheiber was dumbstruck with joy when it was apparent no one was going to knock him off the podium.
“It was a good run and I find no words,” he said. “I’m just so happy.” Both racers used fast starts to carry them to their personal bests. Goergl, whose previous best was a seventh-place and who was 17th in the Lake Louise, Alberta, super-G Sunday, shot out of the gates with the second-fastest start and then clocked the fastest times at the next two intervals and then the finish line. Scheiber had the fastest start of the day and was able to maintain enough speed to stay third through the line.”It was a good run,” he said. “In the middle, it was not so good. I had two little mistakes. But in the end of the run, it was OK again.”Miller’s run was typical Bode. After the third-fastest start, he hit the second interval as the sixth fastest and then the third at 11th before tearing down the final stretch with the tightest line to nab second. His biggest mistake came in the turn below The Pumphouse when he ran into soft balls of snow on the side of the course and struggled to find a solid edge.”I made one mistake in the whole course and that was it,” Miller said. “It’s a frustrating mistake because I wasn’t trying to take any risk there. … I was just trying to make it through. I just got low on The Pumphouse turn, and the next turn the snow was a lot different. … There was nothing to push on. … I made up a (expletive) load of time on the bottom half.”Miller said the course favors the early racers, and that he wasn’t surprised that Goergl and Scheiber ended up where they did with their early bib numbers. For proof, he pointed out that last year Norwegian Bjarne Solbakken won the super-G on the Birds of Prey wearing the No. 9 bib. This year, Solbakken started in 27th place, supposedly one of the prime spots, with Walchhofer, Rahlves and Maier following right behind, but couldn’t do better than 22nd.
“Of course, it’s a little disappointing,” said Solbakken, who finished in 1:14.88. “These last few days I wasn’t feeling too good. This morning, I woke up feeling bad. I have the flu or something. I’m not going to blame it on that. I haven’t been skiing as good the last couple weeks as I did last year at this time.” It’s not the skisOne of the better subplots in Thursday’s race, other than Miller’s streak coming to an end and Austrian youth being served, was that Goergl won on Fischer skis. After Miller switched to Atomic in the offseason and inherited Thomas Buergler, the former ski tech for retired two-time overall champ Stefan Eberharter of Austria, there was some talk this week that Miller’s current domination was a result of that switch.The Austrian Ski Federation was incensed that Miller and Rahlves, who also has Buergler selecting and waxing his skis, had seemingly butted to the front of the line with Atomic, which has supplied Austria’s superstars with its best skis over the years.Goergl’s win may have quieted some of that discussion.”I think they should stop crying,” Rahlves said. “They’ve had that advantage as long as I can remember. Those guys shouldn’t be whining about that. They should just be thinking about skiing and that’s just the way it is. We’ve got to kind of earn it and we definitely earned it. I picked up Tom and he’s a guy in our court, but you’ve still got to be able to ski. I had fast skis today and look what it did.”Goergl had similar remarks. He said he felt he had the fastest skis on Thursday, but that still didn’t guarantee him his first victory.
“I changed my equipment this year (to Fischer),” he said. “I thought it would work out good and it did. I think there’s too much weight on the thing with skis and stuff. I mean, look at Bode. He won on Rossignol. He won on Atomic. He was great on Fischer.”Miller himself didn’t have much to say about the whole debate.”Hopefully, it confuses (the Austrians) a little bit,” he said.Maybe so. That two unknowns on the world’s deepest alpine team were the two who made it onto the podium Thursday was confusing enough.That Miller continues to reign over the competition seems to be the only thing for certain so far in this infantile World Cup season.And, since Miller has repeatedly proven to be the most unpredictable racer on the circuit in the last two years, who knows what is to come?Today’s downhill at 11 a.m. may hold some answers.Staff Writer Nate Peterson can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 608, or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.