Wednesday, December 8, 2004

Kildow joins Bode with downhill gold

Encouraging weekend for USST

Bode Miller isn't the only American climbing the top step of the podium in the early-season World Cup.

Friday was a great day for the U.S. Ski Team as both Miller, 27, and Vail racer Lindsey Kildow, 20, won their downhill events in North America.

Miller and USST teammate Daron Rahlves went 1-2 in the VISA Birds of Prey men's downhill at Beaver Creek, Colo. Miller simply overpowered the technical, testing 2.7-kilometer course for a .16-second win over Rahlves.

It was Miller's 16th World Cup victory—and fourth victory in five races so far in the current campaign. Bryon Friedman, 24, added to the American euphoria with a seventh-place result.

Miller said, "I was flying. I was rolling. It was a damn good run—it's never perfect, but my effort was perfect. I was doing things with instinct and reaction, a phenomenal feeling."

Coming up short in his bid for a ninth Cup win, Rahlves added, "I gave it my best effort but Bode was faster today. It's definitely a huge accomplishment for us, for our team, and doing it here in the U.S. is incredible."

Kildow, something of a protégé of Sun Valley's Picabo Street, won the opening downhill of the Women's Winterstart Weekend at Lake Louise, Alberta, Canada and led six American women into the top 20.

It was Kildow's first victory.

Starting 17th and hoping to make the top three, Kildow skied through steady winds and flat light to edge Olympic downhill queen Carole Montillet-Carles of France by .19 seconds.

"I was pretty nervous," said Kildow, who took a nasty fall during a World Cup downhill at Lake Louise in 2001. "My main goal was just to relax and fly as low as I could."

Kildow had a tremendous weekend. Saturday, she churned through gnarly conditions and finished fifth—only .26 seconds away from another win—in the second Lake Louise downhill. She outskied everybody in the technical middle section of the run.

Germany's Hilde Gerg earned the 19th win of her career Saturday.

On Sunday, Kildow stormed the speed run at Lake Louise for another podium, third place in the first super giant slalom of the season. Once known as a solid glider, Kildow said she has tightened her technical acing through more giant slalom training.

Austria's Michaela Dorfmeister captured her 17th career win Sunday.

Over at Beaver Creek, Bode Miller wasn't nearly as consistent as Kildow.

Although Miller placed second in Thursday's SG taken by first-time Cup winner Stephan Goergl of Austria, the American ace DNFd the weekend giant slalom and slalom races.

Miller, bidding to become the first U.S. man to win the overall World Cup title since Phil Mahre in 1983, still maintained his overall lead 480-274 over Hermann Maier of Austria.

Park City's Erik Schlopy, returning from knee surgery a year ago, was sixth in Saturday's GS won by Norway's Lasse Kjus, for his 17th Cup triumph.

In Sunday's men's slalom season debut at Beaver Creek, World Cup rookie Ted Ligety of Park City finished in a tie for 15th place. He was the lone American out of eight starters to reach the final run. Miller and Schlopy failed to finish the first run.

Miller's gate misfortunes didn't minimize what he achieved so far.

Schlopy echoed the sentiments of many when he said, "I hope the general public in the U.S. can appreciate what the U.S. Ski Team is doing, especially Bode, right now, and realize we've got the best in the world in this sport right now on the USST.

"Bode should be getting the recognition that—I'm going to go out on a limb and say—Tiger Woods is getting because he's better at skiing than Tiger Woods is at golf. He's better at skiing than Andy Roddick is at tennis, so he should be just as famous as those guys because our sport is harder, more demanding, more athletic and way more risky than any of those sports."

Here are current overall standings, with fully 33 races remaining on the 2004-05 men's schedule:

Men's overall: 1—Bode Miller (U.S.) 480. 2—Hermann Maier (Austria) 274. 6—Daron Rahlves (U.S.) 184.

Women's overall: 1—Tanja Poutiainen (Finland) 340. 2—Anja Paerson (Sweden) 311. 7—Lindsey Kildow 205 (and second in downhill standings).

The World Cup men and women are now finished with their North American races and they're gone to Europe for the next three months including the 2005 World Championships Jan. 29 at Bormio, Italy. The women have SG Saturday and GS Sunday at Altenmarkt, Austria. And the men are at Val d'Isere, France for downhill and GS Dec. 11-12.

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