Rahlves baffled by 10th-place downhill finish
Sun News Service
SESTRIERE BORGATA, Italy ” Daron Rahlves really, really wanted to win the 2006 men’s Olympic downhill race.
Rahlves had butterflies all morning before the race in Sestriere Borgata, Italy, on Sunday. Then, 10 minutes before race time, he had managed to calm himself down and get focused.
He broke out of the start gate and shot down the entire course steadily, making crisp turns, staying calm in the air off the jumps and firing around each gate. But when he crossed the finish line, he was No. 7. At the end of the race, he was No. 10, with a time of 1 minute, 50.33 seconds ” a second-and-a-half slower than winner Antoine Deneriaz (1:48.80).
“I was prepped and ready to go. I was nervous this morning, but it faded and I was ready to race,” Rahlves said. “I didn’t feel I made any mistakes. I must be in a fog bank. I was surprised I was losing speed. The feeling was all right. It was there.”
Rahlves was shocked when he looked up at the scoreboard. In a similar way that Deneriaz looked up at the board and was struck with surprise and elation at winning, Rahlves was stunned with his less-than-podium-worthy result.
“I was like, ‘What? I can’t believe it,'” Rahlves said. “I didn’t make a tactical mistake. I went out there and gave it everything. It didn’t work out. It’s hard to swallow.”
Rahlves said he felt better after Sunday’s downhill than the 2002 Olympic downhill, when he finished 16th.
“I was nervous and sick to my stomach in Salt Lake after the downhill,” he said. “Now, I feel way more relaxed. You just gotta laugh these things off sometimes. The wheels fell off. Something didn’t work out. Life goes on.”
Despite a couple of rough turns at the bottom of the course, Bode Miller also felt he had an excellent run, but finished fifth with a time of 1:49.93.
“I raced super hard today, just my result wasn’t there,” Miller said. “I’m not ever surprised actually. I’ve raced long enough that I know sometimes you race and you ski awesome and you’re in 10th place, other times you ski like crap and you win.”
Plus, Miller pointed out that just a fraction of a second would have earned him a medal. And a fraction of a second isn’t much.
“It would have taken a hurricane to get me into first place. The way Deneriaz was skiing, he was pretty much untouchable today,” Miller said. “It was so close (to the podium) – like three tenths of a second. See those flags moving up there? Sometimes that’s the difference in three tenths.”
As for Rahlves, this Olympic downhill was his last before he retires at the end of the season. However, he still has the Olympic super-G and giant slalom to race this week and next.
“I wanted this more than anything,” Rahlves said. “Super-G and GS are coming up, but they don’t mean as much as this. This is the downhill. It’s the ultimate race we have in skiing.”
Rahlves was wearing sunglasses equipped with earphones after the race. He said rather than venting his disappointment outwardly, he’d just settle down with some Metallica and call it a day.
“I’ve been through a lot of races,” he said. “It doesn’t do you any good to get mad and break stuff. I’m going to just put my anti-social glasses on right now and walk out.”
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