Rahlves ends racing career; ‘Cookie’ off to speedy start | SierraSun.com

Rahlves ends racing career; ‘Cookie’ off to speedy start

Photo by Robert F. Bukaty/APTruckee's Daron Rahlves hugs a gate on his way to winning the mens super-G at the U.S. Alpine Championships Sunday, March 26, at Sugarloaf USA in Maine.

SUGARLOAF, Maine ” Former super-G world champion Daron Rahlves, the most successful U.S. man in World Cup speed races, said his long-awaited good-bye to ski racing Sunday by winning the last race of his career.

The Truckee skier collected his seventh U.S. title, and his third straight super-G crown at the TD Banknorth U.S. Alpine Championships.

Turning the final page on his racing career with a win in super-G, he said, “is cool. That’s where I’ve had the most success. Super-G, it’s kind of where my ski racing career started. Early on, when I ever thought about winning a World Cup race, it would have been a super-G event.”

At the end, the emotional tug of his final race seeped into his thinking, Rahlves conceded.

“Today’s the first time I started high-fiving guys in the start and was, ‘All right, last ride down. This wraps it up on super-G skis,'” Rahlves said.

“It’s the first time I let myself actually let it settle in: ‘Yeah, this is it.’ That was even more of a motivational factor to come out and try to throw it down today. It felt good.”

Rahlves, a three-time Olympian, was timed in 1 minute, 18.80 seconds over the 2-kilometer course down Sugarloaf’s Narrow Gauge racing trail. Scott Macartney of Redmond, Wash., a two-time Olympian, was the silver medalist in 1:19.11 while T.J. Lanning of Park City, Utah, finished third in 1:19.55.

Bode Miller, who topped Rahlves in the Saturday’s downhill, was fourth in 1:19.64.

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 “do my own thing, and hopefully it would come off all right,” he said. “I had a few mistakes in two turns, but I kept the skis clean. That’s the most important thing there, keeping the skis clean.”

Rahlves’ collection of U.S. gold medals includes four super-G titles (2000, ’04, ’05, ’06), 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 (most by any U.S. man) and three World Cup super-G wins (tied with Bode Miller), a gold in super G at the 2001 World Championships, silver in downhill and bronze in GS at the 2005 Worlds.

U.S. head coach Phil McNichol had mixed emotions on Rahlves’ final run: 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, in my opinion: 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.

“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. You’re willing to do just about anything ” get better at your job, work long hours, whatever you can do to complement everything that athlete’s already doing and will do to become the best. It’s redundant to say he’s going to be missed.”

Shortly after Daron Rahlves posted his win in the super-G Sunday at the TD Banknorth U.S. Alpine Championships, another Truckee Olympian, Stacey Cook, won her first title in the women’s super-G.

Cook was glad to win but said she probably could have skied better.

“I was really excited half way down. I knew I had nailed the hard section and I was just like ‘keep it together’ because I knew I had a fast time through there and so I tried to keep it together for the bottom,” Cook said. “I enjoyed the experience because it does add a bit more pressure and it just makes me stronger in races in the next coming years to know I can have something happen like that and still perform well.”

Tahoe City’s Julia Mancuso saw her string of 11 straight U.S. championships podiums snapped as she finished fourth and two-time Olympian Jonna Mendes of South Lake Tahoe came in sixth.

Cook’s gold-medal time was 1:23.90 with Kirsten Clark of Raymond, Maine, second in 1:24.01 and Kaylin Richardson of Edina, Minn., third, another .03 back. Mancuso finished in 1:24.38 and Mendes in 1:24.93.

Cook said success by Mancuso, the Olympic giant slalom champion who also won two bronze medals at the 2005 World Championships, and Lindsey Kildow ” who’s won four World Cup downhills in the last two seasons ” has helped spur the the younger skiers to step-up their performances.

“We have so many young people on our team and the veterans, too, but there’s like five or six girls born in the ’84 year alone,” Cook said. “We have a young team and I think Julia and Lindsey’s success definitely pushes us. I know I feed off of it and I see them do it and I know I can do it, too. I just have to get more experience.”

Kirsten Clark won the women’s downhill, edging Mancuso. Mendes, the two-time defending champion, finished 10th.

Clark, the only American to win four consecutive U.S. downhill championships, had a winning time on the Narrow Gauge racing trail of 1:19.65 for her fifth career downhill title. Mancuso was second in 1:20.14 and Cook, completing a podium of Olympic teammates, was third in the field of 53.

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