February 2, 2005
BORMIO, Italy (AP by Erica Bulman)--After a few tough weeks, skier Daron Rahlves is ready to resume downhill racing.
The 31-year-old American, off pain killers and sufficiently recovered from a giant slalom accident last month, is eager to kick out of the start in his favorite discipline at the Alpine World Championships next Saturday.
``I just can't wait,'' Rahlves said after the men's second training session Tuesday. ``Every morning is tough to start off, but I got off pain killers, the little stuff I was taking.
``I've washed the crash out of my mind. I'm able to reach race mode level where I just put any pain out of my brain.''
Since his somersaulting crash three weeks ago in Adelboden left him with badly bruised shins, Rahlves had been suffering under the pressure of his ski boots.
He was forced to skip the Lauberhorn races in Wengen, then the Hahnenkamm downhill was wiped out by bad weather.
As a result, Rahlves hasn't raced in a downhill since Jan. 8, when he finished fifth in Chamonix.
But he looked strong in Tuesday's training, crossing sixth, just .61 seconds behind leader Christoph Gruber of Austria.
``I haven't skied downhill since Chamonix,'' Rahlves said. ``I had one day of training in Kitzbuehel, but I was fighting through a lot of pain so I didn't have a chance to ski the way I wanted to.
``This is the first day I feel I've gotten back on track. I had some great turns and linked some good sections up. It was a fun day on skis.''
Rahlves seemed back on track when he finished second behind Hermann Maier in the Hahnenkamm super-G.
But Rahlves struggled with the unfamiliar snow conditions and finished a disappointing 10th, unable to reclaim the gold medal he'd won in 2001.
Instead, he watched teammate Bode Miller walk away with the title.
``For sure, it was a big punch in the stomach,'' Rahlves said. ``I wasn't prepared on the super-G skis.
``But then I thought, 'OK, there's nothing I can do now, it's over. What do I need to do to ski fast on a hill with these conditions?'''
With its wild terrain, physically demanding layout and traditionally rock-hard surface, Bormio is one of Rahlves' favorites stops on the World Cup circuit.
But upon arriving last week, the American discovered the icy conditions he knows and loves were replaced with grippy chalky snow, more manageable for the less-experienced athletes from around the world _ such as Mexico, Guatemala and Hungary _ who are allowed to compete at the championships.
``It's a lot easier now,'' said Rahlves, working with his serviceman to adjust his skis for the conditions. ``I like when it's icy. When it's aggressive and chalky like this, I have a tough time with the skis. I had a pretty bad feeling yesterday. My skis kept pulling underneath me and cramping me up. It's a fight, it's not smooth.
``And when you're not smooth, you're not fast.''
Copyright © 2005 The Associated Press