Rahlves Set to Defend Title | VailDaily.com

Rahlves Set to Defend Title

Daily Staff Report

But he is confident and poised coming in not only as the defending champion in the super-G, which will be run Sunday, but also as the winner of two World Cup downhills this season, including last weekend’s Hahnenkamm.

Rahlves will lead five U.S. skiers into the super-G to kick off the World Championships where the team has a goal of winning four medals.

“I’m a rookie on this hill,” said Rahlves to a packed press conference Friday. “I’m just going to go out tomorrow and freeski it to get the feel. Every event is important to me. It’s been rough this year in super-G, but the pressure is off. I’ve had good training and good new Atomic skis and I look forward to the event.”

Rahlves, a native of Sugar Bowl, Calif., will be joined by Bode Miller (Franconia, N.H.), Jake Fiala (Frisco), Marco Sullivan (Squaw Valley, Calif.), and Thomas Vonn (Newburgh, N.Y.) in Sunday’s opener.

Of the entire group, Fiala and Sullivan-have the most experience on the hill, all coming in Europa Cups.

“I’ve raced on this hill a lot. I have a lot of confidence,” said Sullivan. “As far as expectations, I would like to be on the podium, if I can avoid crashes and doing something stupid.”

“The team atmosphere has really helped this year,” said Fiala, who has a top five downhill Europa Cup finish on the hill. “When I beat some of these guys in training it gives me confidence. I’m getting closer to where I want to be. I’m shooting for the podium. It may surprise you guys, but it won’t surprise me.”

Fiala has seen a huge jump this season, with a career best last Monday in Kitzbuehel with a 15th in super-G. “Maybe it was pressure to both make the worlds team and stay on the U.S. Ski Team, but I got good confidence at Wengen and Kitzbuehel and I just put the hammer down.”

Vonn, who was on the 1999 Worlds team, but just missed the team two years ago said, “It’s been little of a frustrating year so far but I’ve had some good training and I’m feeling good and ready.”

Miller is calm and cool going into the Championships. Two years ago, his Worlds was cut short with an injury in the combined downhill.

“I had a fairly easy transition to speed this season. I’ve been racing all the time and that’s limited my training. And I haven’t had much time on my slalom skis, but I feel balanced and comfortable.

“I’m not surprised (Hermann) won and I would have expected it to be super-G. It’s the easiest event physically and it’s been his best event. He was a world champion before he was hurt, he was training hard and he’s come back hungry.

Miller did ski in the World Cup giant slalom in St. Moritz last year, but has no speed experience on the hill.

“My only experience is in the GS here, so I can only speak to that. This hill has lots of terrain, unlike anything else on the World Cup circuit.”

Start in Switzerland time is 12:30 p.m. Sunday (4:30 a.m. MST), when the U.S. Ski Team sends five competitive skiers into the opening event of the FIS Alpine World Ski Championships.

U.S. Lights Up Europa Cup

ALTENMARKT, Austria – While the eyes of the ski world are drawing to the FIS Alpine World Championships in St. Moritz, U.S. Ski Team racers not on the Worlds team have been lighting up the Europa Cup.

Thursday, Bryon Friedman of Park City, Utah, was second in a Europa Cup downhill in Altenmarkt, Austria – a career best finish at the highest level of competition below the World Cup.

Wednesday in Megeve, France, Alison Powers of Winter Park took another huge step in her comeback from an injury two years ago to win a Europa Cup downhill. It was a career best downhill finish for Powers, matching a Europa Cup super-G win three years ago.

Powers’ win came a day after three U.S. Ski Team racers took third, fourth and fifth with Vail’s Lindsey C. Kildow leading the way in third, Bryna McCarty of Concord, Vt., fourth and Powers fifth.

“These were great performances for Powers and Kildow,” said U.S. Ski Team head coach Marjan Cernigoj.

Powers cameback this fall from an injury suffered in a World Cup in January, 2001. Kildow was injured earlier in the season but has been coming back strong in races this month and is expected to rejoin the World Cup sometime after World Championships.