Jackson Hole, WY Mar. 25 (AP by John Mossman)--Two days in March have changed Daron Rahlves' life.
An underachiever for most of his skiing career, Rahlves stunned the World Cup circuit by winning back-to-back downhills on March 3-4 at Kvitfjell, Norway.
Rahlves' initial victory was the first in any World Cup discipline by a U.S. man since Kyle Rasmussen won a downhill in 1995, coincidentally on the same course. Rahlves' back-to-back wins were the first since Bill Johnson in 1984.
Rahlves, 26, of Truckee, Calif., followed those successes with a fifth-place finish in a super-G and a ninth-place result in a downhill.
On Saturday in the men's super-G in the U.S. Alpine Ski Championships, Rahlves won again.
``This last month has been incredible on the World Cup,'' Rahlves said. ``It has made my life, winning those two World Cups in Norway. It's given me a lot of confidence to take into next season and make the next step to the World Championships and throughout the World Cup season and head into Salt Lake (2002 Olympics) with a full head of steam.
``Now I know what's inside of me. When I ski my best, it can be the best in the world, and that's what I found out in Norway. For an athlete, there's nothing better than that.
``You want to be competitive and beat all the best guys in the world. I'm so happy to finally have reached that. I've been watching guys win World Cups for the last few years. It feels awesome to be a part of that.''
Rahlves credits his breakthrough to a more relaxed attitude and trying to have fun with his skiing.
``For me to ski well, I've got to be in a happy mood and be having fun,'' he said. ``If I'm not having fun, then it's not going to go well.
``I've found what works for me in the start. The mental side plays a big part in ski racing. You've got to push yourself to the limit but not go over it. You need the right state of mind to perform at your best, and I think I've found it. Now I've just got to fine-tune this.''
Rahlves' new goal is to perform consistently on the World Cup circuit, a la Austrian ace Hermann Maier.
``I want to be top five, on the podium, winning races in every race of next season,'' he said. ``That's a tough challenge. Only one guy in the world does that right now, Hermann Maier. If he has a bad race, he's fourth or fifth. That's just incredible, to be that consistent.
``He's made 2,000 World Cup points this year, and that's the equivalent of 20 wins. In one season, that's unheard of. But that's the level that everybody dreams about.
``You dream about winning your first World Cup race. Then you win a second one and you want to stay consistent so that you're never far out in a race. You want more of it. It's a feeling that just sends chills and shivers through your whole body when it happens. And that's what I'm looking for in life.''
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