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Austria's Walchhofer Snags Downhill at Worlds

ST. MORITZ, Switzerland Feb. 8, 2003 (AP by Nesha Starcevic)--Austria's Michael Walchhofer upstaged his favored teammates by winning the downhill at the Alpine Skiing World Championships on Saturday for his first career victory.

The 27-year-old Walchhofer covered the 2,989-meter Corviglia course in 1 minute, 43.54 seconds, well ahead of teammates Stephan Eberharter and Hermann Maier.

Jake Fiala led the Americans with a 12th-place finish. Daron Rahlves lost balance just before the finish and missed the last gate skiing only on his right ski. Although he was provisionally in 16th place, Rahlves will be disqualified, allowing Bode Miller to move into that spot, 2.24 seconds behind the winner.

Maier, a two-time Olympic champion and three-time World Cup overall winner who is three weeks into his comeback from a serious motorcycle accident, was eighth. Super G winner Stephan Eberharter, who has five downhill victories this season and leads the overall World Cup standings, finished fifth.

Walchhofer had placed second in four World Cup downhill races this season, and his only win was in a combined, the total results of a downhill and two slalom runs.

He was not surprised by the victory.

"I had good results this season in the downhill,'' Walchhofer said. "It was a clean run. I'm happy that after being second so many times, I'm on top now.''

Norway's Kjetil-Andre Aamodt finished second, 0.51 seconds behind Walchhofer, and collected his record 12th medal in world championship competition. Including the Olympics, Aamodt has won 19 medals.

Switzerland's Bruno Kernen, the 1997 champion, finished third after holding an early lead. He was 0.97 off the winning pace.

Germany's Max Rauffer, a late starter, was on pace to move into the top three, but crashed heavily.

Switzerland's Didier Cuche was fourth, and Canada's Erik Guay was sixth.

Aamodt led most of the way, but a costly mistake at the bottom of the course probably cost him the victory.

"I've had a lot of luck at the world championships,'' Aamodt said. "It's been incredible. I had very fast skis today but I did not ski well. I didn't expect this medal.''

Rahlves, the winner of two downhill races this season, was disappointed with his performance.

"I was only in it to win,'' he said. "I made a mistake staying too low, looking for as much speed at the top. I had speed but I didn't have direction.

"I lost a lot of ground, I had to go for broke and it was just too much,'' he said.

Miller, who thought about skipping the race to concentrate on the upcoming giant slalom and slalom events, said he didn't waste too much energy.

"It's a great race, you want to be part of it,'' he said. "Anybody can win, maybe I could have nailed it easily, there were little gusts, if you were lucky you get a tail wind.''

Fiala was the early leader, before the biggest stars skied.

"I was psyched that I wasn't too far out,'' he said.

Marco Sullivan finished 24th.

Copyright (c) 2000 The Associated Press

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