Last win over and out |

Last win over and out

AP photo Daron Rahlves hits a gate on his way to winning the men's super G at the U. S. Alpine Championships Sunday at Sugarloaf in Carrabassett Valley, Maine.

SUGARLOAF, Maine – Former super G world champion Daron Rahlves, the most successful U.S. man in World Cup speed races, had his long-awaited good-bye to ski racing Sunday by winning the last race of his career. He collected his seventh U.S. title and his third straight super G crown at the TD Banknorth U.S. Alpine Championships.Rahlves, a three-time Olympian, was timed in 1 minute 18.80 seconds over the 2-kilometer course on Sugarloaf’s Narrow Gauge racing trail. Scott Macartney, a two-time Olympian, was the silver medalist in 1:19.11, while T.J. Lanning finished third in 1:19.55. Bode Miller, who topped Rahlves Saturday in the U.S. downhill, was fourth (1:19.64).

Rahlves started, ended with super GRahlves was a student at Vermont’s Green Mountain Valley School in the early nineties when Rahlves won the super G title in the Eastern Cup development series. Turning the final page on his racing career with a win in super G, he said, is appropriate.”That’s where I’ve had the most success,” Rahlves said. “Super G … It’s kind of where my ski racing career started. Early on, whenever I thought about winning a World Cup race, it would have been a super G event. Here, I won a NorAm a long time ago. To finish it off with another super G win here at Sugarloaf feels good. It’s a great hill, there’s a lot of good terrain, hard snow. It’s kind of what us racers like, to come back to the East Coast and throw a few turns on this boilerplate.”At the end, Rahlves said the emotional tug of his final race seeped into his mindset before he hit the course.”Today’s the first time I started high-fiving guys in the start and was, ‘Alright, last ride down. This wraps it up on super G skis,'” he said. “It’s the first time I let myself actually let it settle in. That was even more of a motivational factor to come out and try to throw it down today.”

Racing No. 2 in the field of 87, Rahlves knew he wouldn’t be able to get any course reports, so he knew he would have to fend for himself.”I skied the right line top to bottom,” he said.The trophy caseHis collection of U.S. gold medals includes four SG titles (2000, 20004, 2005, 2006), the 2001 downhill championship and two giant slalom titles, including 1996 at Sugarloaf after winning his first title at Park City, Utah, in 1995. He also has nine World Cup downhill victories – the most by any U.S. man in history – and three World Cup super G wins (tied with Bode Miller) in addition to gold in super G at the 2001 world championships, silver in downhill and bronze in GS at the 2005 worlds.

Head Coach Phil McNichol had mixed emotions, sad to see Rahlves go but tickled that he went out a winner with a solid run. “Daron is the best we have to offer, the absolute epitome of professionalism,” McNichol said. “He’s the ideal athlete – easy going, likes to have fun and knows how to have it, but he’s supremely focused and supremely disciplined. He’s probably the greatest athlete I’ve had the pleasure of working with.”McNichol said Rahlves will leave a void on the U.S. Ski Team.”It’s nice when you have an athlete you want to help so much because of his or her approach and the way they handle themselves,” McNichol said. “You’re willing to do just about anything – get better at your job, work long hours, whatever you can do to compliment everything that athlete’s already doing and will do to become the best. It’s redundant to say he’s going to be missed.”Longtime U.S. men’s speed coach John McBride, who also is retiring, said in a telephone call, “Of course he won.””You don’t think ‘D’ would let Bode or anyone else beat him in his last race, do you?”Vail Colorado

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