St. Anton, Austria, Jan. 28, 2001--In what may be symbolic of battles to come, American Daron Rahlves (Sugar Bowl, CA) carried the U.S. flag into the stadium in St. Anton Sunday night, standing next to Austrian superstar Hermann Maier as teams from 64 nations assembled for the opening of the World Alpine Ski Championships. Action begins Monday with the women's super G, with Rahlvessquaring off with Maier on Tuesday in the men's super G and again on Saturday in the showcase downhill event.
Fresh from a helicopter ride from Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany, Rahlves led a team of 13 U.S. World Championship team members into the stadium at sunset in front of nearly 10,000 Austrians who jammed into the arena for the 90-minute ceremony.
After a frustrating weekend in Garmisch, it was a welcome relief for Rahlves as he arrived at the team's hotel in St. Anton tohigh-fives from friends and teammates for his success just a week earlier as he made it to the podium in the fabled Kitzbueheldownhill.
Cool as ever, Rahlves took it all in stride. "He's just skiing so great right now," said longtime U.S. Coach Bill Egan.
Rahlves has plenty of company in that category. While a win has eluded U.S. skiers, all 13 team members have scored World Cuppoints and six different skiers have been on the podium. On overall balance, it's one of the strongest U.S. teams since the 1985Worlds in Bormio, Italy.
Alongside Rahlves in the parade were slalom stars Kristina Koznick (Burnsville, MN) and Sarah Schleper (Vail, CO) -- a day afterfinishing two-four in awful race conditions in Germany, and 20-year-old Caroline Lalive, fresh from four top-10's in one two-dayweekend.
The World Alpine Ski Championships will be well-covered in the USA, with 15 hours of network television on ESPN and NBC.Virtually every event will be covered same-day in the USA, one of the most aggressive schedules in history.