St. Anton, Austria Feb. 11, 2001 (AP by Nesha Starcevic)--Hermann Maier's aura of invincibility may have dimmed. But, one year before the Olympics, one thing remains clear: The Austrians still rule Alpine skiing.
The Americans showed they can pose a threat now and then, although that was not the case Saturday when the world championships ended.
The two-week event began with great promise for the United States as Megan Gerety finished fourth in the women's super giant slalom.
Then came the unexpected _ but not totally surprising _ gold medal for Daron Rahlves in the men's super-G, a rarity for the United States at a world championships.
From then on, however, it was downhill all the way, with no U.S. skier winning a medal.
In the men's slalom Saturday, Erik Schlopy finished 21st and Casey Puckett was 28th.
``It was a bad day,'' U.S. coach Bill Egan said. ``We just didn't ski well at all. We have to learn from these bad days and go forward.''
Schlopy had finished second and fourth in a pair of giant slaloms this season.
``All I can do is learn from experience here,'' he said.
Bode Miller finished his season by tearing knee ligaments during a spill in the men's combined downhill. Caroline Lalive failed to finish her first three races and then injured her leg during practice, ending her championships.
The Austrians concluded impressively, going 1-2 in the slalom with Mario Matt and Benjamin Raich. However, the championships proved an immense letdown for Maier, the dominant skier the last three seasons.
The two-time champion from the 1998 Nagano Olympics lost both his world titles and won only a silver and a bronze.
This was supposed to be Maier's championship, competing on home snow before enthusiastic crowds.
All the expectations proved too much. Maier won the bronze in the super-G and was beaten by compatriot Hannes Trinkl in the showcase downhill.
He was even shut out in the giant slalom, finishing fourth in the event he won at the Olympics.
Maier said he signed too many autographs, gave too many interviews, missed too many meals and attended too many receptions to fully concentrate on skiing.
Among the women, Janica Kostelic was the biggest flop. The 19-year-old Croatian came to St. Anton riding a nine-race slalom winning streak and leading the World Cup.
She fell in the combined slalom and bruised her thigh. She finished fifth in the slalom and went home without competing in the giant slalom.
The Austrian women were shut out in the super-G but swept the downhill, with Michaela Dorfmeister beating World Cup champion and defending gold medalist Renate Goetschl.
By winning two more medals on the final day, the Austrian team led the way with total medals (11) and gold medals (three). Their total was four fewer than two years ago in Vail, Colo., where they had five golds.
Kjetil-Andre Aamodt of Norway won his third straight combined gold and added a silver in the giant slalom. That raised his collection of medals from world championships and the Olympics to 15, a record for men.
Florian Eckert of Germany celebrated his 22nd birthday by coming from nowhere to win the downhill bronze.
There was also the grand arrival of 19-year-old Anja Paerson, who won the slalom and then the bronze in the giant. The four-time world junior champion comes from Taernaby, the Swedish town that produced one of skiing's greats, Ingemar Stenmark.
The next world championships are in St. Moritz, Switzerland, in 2003.
World Championships Final Medal Count
Copyright © 2000 The Associated Press