Klammer is king of Classic downhill
VAIL – Franz Klammer has a secret skiing weapon that comes in a liquid form. Sitting in second place after his first run Thursday at the downhill of the American Ski Classic in Vail, Klammer took a shot of Jagermeister before his second run.”A little shot of Jager never hurts. My old bones need it, obviously,” Klammer said.Austria’s Klammer posted the best run of the day (51.79 seconds) on his second trip down Golden Peak to win with a total time of 1:44.31.But before Klammer could celebrate, he had to wait for Otto Tschudi to finish. Tschudi had the second-fastest run (52.16), but fell 0.29 seconds short of Klammer’s time.Tschudi didn’t feel too much pressure sitting in first, as he had some tactics of his own to employ. “I don’t mind (having the lead). I actually get fired up and I realized I could win,” said Norway’s Tschudi. “I know how to focus. I meditate and do a lot of things other people don’t.”American Steve Mahre finished third for his second bronze in as many days, while his brother Phil Mahre took fourth.
Net times for all racers were adjusted based on age.Jakub Fiala, who attended Battle Mountain HIgh School, was the gross time winner.Norse speedToril Forland was happy to be the last woman in the starting gate before her second run, but that didn’t calm her much.”Not only being in the lead after the first run, but every time you get in a downhill where there’s speed, the butterflies kick in,” Forland said.But Norway’s Forland was up to the task, and laid down the fastest second run to assure a victory.”Now the pressure’s off,” Forland said.Michaela Gerg-Leitner took second place, and couldn’t have been much happier.”On a day like this, it’s perfect,” Gerg-Leitner said, pointing to the sun and clear skies.The German, who had the best gross time, said she planned on celebrating with a beer, but only one.
“I have to do the qualifying for the Ford Cup, so I can’t have more than one,” Gerg-Leitner said. “But maybe more later on.”Rounding out the podium was Laurie Graham of Canada, while Sweden’s Pernilla Wiberg took fourth.Last week, Janica Kostelic broke Wiberg’s record for World Cup points in one season. Even with Wiberg’s stellar performance Thursday, she says a World Cup comeback won’t happen.”I have no intention of making a comeback whatsoever. So (Janica’s) safe,” Wiberg said.Once a yearFor 61-year-old Barbara Ferries-Henderson, Thursday’s race was a change of pace from her usual tree skiing in Vail, but it allowed her to relive memories from more than 40 years ago.”You don’t get a chance to ski a downhill run very often. This is it, once a year,” Ferries-Henderson said. “When I start out the practice runs, I’m a little tentative. But when you get used to the speed, you stand up a little and got faster. I competed in 1964 (at the Innsbruck Games), so it’s a delight to do it again.”Chances are, this won’t be her last downhill race.”Every year I think, I’m not going to do it, but then I get in and take a few runs and think, ‘I can do this,'” Ferries-Henderson said.Mahre, who holds the record for most men’s World Cup victories for an American with 27, enjoyed seeing several generations of ski racers.
“It’s great to see familiar faces from before our time and after our time,” Mahre said. “Some of the guys are 10 to 15 years younger, and it’s good to play with those guys. You think you are right back there.” Hard landings, easy winnings The most challenging part of the course may have been the finish area. A few racers couldn’t stop before the padded wall, including Canada’s Paul Carson.”My neck is a little stiff after that crash,” said Carson, who had two solid runs to place eighth. “I hit my head pretty hard. I could hear it crack when I hit, and that’s never a good sign.”Carson was by far the best-dressed skier, donning a light pink and yellow race suit.”Descente sent it to me a few years back,” Carson said. “I’m just glad I can still fit into it. That’s the challenge every year.”And as happy as Carson was to still fit into his suit, so was Klammer to have won. “Winning is always sweet,” Klammer said. “And it’s much easier to explain why you have won than why you are only second.”Sports Writer Ian Cropp can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 14631, or firstname.lastname@example.org.Vail, Colorado
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