Who writes this script?
BEAVER CREEK – Just when you thought it was crazy enough that Americans Daron Rahlves and Bode Miller reversed their I-II finish from last year’s Birds of Prey downhill finish, it almost got stranger Friday.As the final racers were making it down the hill, word reached the media tent that Vail’s Lindsey Kildow was leading the women’s downhill up in Lake Louise, Alberta, halfway through that race.One year ago, Miller won the DH here, followed by Rahlves in second, and Kildow won up in Lake Louise on the same day in one of the more prolific days in U.S. ski-racing history. Could this be happening again?Alas, no. Kildow finished an impressive fifth. But Friday was another moment in sports when imagination strangled reality.There is the old rule of “No cheering in the press box.” Pffft. The American press was applauding in the press corral when Rahlves roared into the finish ahead of Austria’s Hans Grugger. And the buzz got louder when Miller leap-frogged Grugger for another improbable finish at the Birds of Prey.Miller and Rahlves went I-II in a DH for the first time in American history at last year’s DH. One year later, they flip positions?You can’t script this stuff any better.”It was a battle for who was going to win this year,” yelled Rahlves as he hopped onto the awards stage the first time.The post-race awards ceremony turned into a friendly mob scene with grown men and women happily celebrating like children. Seemingly everyone had a picture phone on hand to capture the podium moment. Rahlves and Miller obliged, while Grugger gracefully slipped off the podium.
It was definitely an American day, punctuated by chants of “USA! USA!”Daron and BodeWhat makes Friday’s finish so satisfying and fascinating is the contrast between the two men. Though they are attached at the hip when it comes to competitive desire and prodigious accomplishments on the hill, the similarities end there.I’ll make the disclaimer right now that I’m a bigger fan of Rahlves.Rahlves’ hallmark on the hill is consistency, making a slow ascendancy to become America’s best all-time downhiller. Miller doesn’t know the meaning of consistency. He has one gear – fifth.It just seems that Miller is going to DNF – new goggles for everyone! – or finish on the podium. While that style is maddening to me, I don’t doubt that’s what Miller’s fans love about him.While not a publicity hound, Rahlves will say all the right things. He’s got a clean-cut image. Miller couldn’t give a hoot about his image. He’ll be at a captain’s meeting before a race with a beer in hand. He’ll tell you what’s on his mind from his opinions on doping to the USSA.On Friday, he was asked by a European reporter if his confidence had sunk with his previous results. Miller replied tartly, “No, but I’ll answer your question anyway.” Classic Bode.Both have dropped hints about 2005-06 being their last season. Rahlves is 32 and is married. He talked Friday about how being on the road on the World Cup is becoming a consideration in his life. Miller, hounded by publicity and generally anti-establishment toward the skiing word, may choose to go off and do his own thing.
But as for the 2006 Birds of Prey downhill, who’s it going to be? Rahlves or Miller? Bode or Daron? To be continued.Weather godsIt quite frankly was a miracle that Beaver Creek got the DH off in the first place. We were meant to get a foot of snow. There’ll be a lot of talk about how the course was shortened, but that’s not the story. The story is how all associated with Birds of Prey made Friday happen. Thatk having been said, could we please hold the snow until about 3 p.m. on Sunday? Not likely.Whither the HerminatorJust as shocking as the Rahlves-Miller storyline was that of Hermann Maier. The Austrian tied for 19th with teammate Benjamin Raich, a full 1.86 seconds off the lead. That was most un-Hermann-like at his home away from home, Beaver Creek. But don’t write the guy off just yet. He won in Soelden, Austria, earlier this year, and there are more wins in his bag.Nyman making his mark
Steve Nyman, a U.S. Ski C-Team member, continues to impress. After posting the best American time in DH training Tuesday, he was in the points in Thursday’s super-G, moving from the 54th bib to 25th place. Wearing the No. 44 Friday, he finished 23rd. He’s done for the week and will be in Val D’Isere, France, next weekend. As for the rest of the Americans, the young guys were out of the points Friday. Christopher Beckmann was 41st, Kevin Francis 42nd and J.J. Johnson 45th. Marco Sullivan and Scott Macartney were DNFs.Strange questionIn Friday’s postgame news conference, Rahlves was asked by a European reporter what young kids back in Europe should do to be more like him. Since when do European skiers look up to their American counterparts? This is a definite sea change.Forever youngCheers to Kjetil Andre of Norway. At 34 years young, he’s still got it, earning an eighth-place finish Friday. Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 14630, or email@example.com.Vail, Colorado