GARMISCH-PARTENKIRCHEN, Germany Feb. 22, 2003 (AP by Erica Bulman)--Austria's Stephan Eberharter won his second straight World Cup downhill title Saturday, dominating the competition on the icy, sun-soaked Kandahar course.
Eberharter finished in 1 minute, 55.68 seconds. Switzerland's Didier Cuche was second in 1:56.75, and American Daron Rahlves, who had the fastest training runs for three straight days, was third in 1:56.98. Austria's Peter Rzehak was fourth in 1:57.24.
``It was a heck of a race,'' Eberharter said after clinching the title with his sixth downhill victory of the season. ``It was 100 percent ice, and you needed really to grit your teeth and be aggressive. You needed strong nerves.''
The downhill victory was Eberharter's first in Garmisch, considered a prestigious classic on the World Cup circuit.
Rahlves, who had the misfortune of starting 30th, made a couple of costly errors, getting thrown off his line on a bumpy section and losing his balance.
``I think this was the toughest downhill race for me this season,'' he said. ``It was rough and dark and tough. I think I still had a good race, even if I made a few mistakes.''
Eberharter has 710 points in the downhill standings. Rahlves is second with 533 points, and with one downhill left this season, in Lillehammer, he can't catch Eberharter.
``It's been an incredible season for me in downhill,'' Rahlves said. ``Ultimately my goal was to win the downhill title, and I had a chance before today, but Stephan sealed it. Still, it's great to be second.''
Eberharter leads the overall standings 1,065 points, more than 100 points ahead of American Bode Miller (960).
The 33-year-old Eberharter replaced Rahlves as world champion in the Super G in St. Moritz two weeks ago, but had a disappointing downhill race then, finishing fifth.
``This downhill was 10 times more difficult than the one in St. Moritz, and everyone will testify to that,'' Eberharter said. ``I've put it behind me and got it out of my system.''
Rahlves was looking to make up for a poor showing at the worlds, where he missed the final gate in the downhill and finished a dismal 22nd in the Super G.
Miller, who won the giant slalom and combined and finished second to Eberharter in the Super G at the World Championships, finished more than four seconds off the pace.
Eberharter and Miller will have another opportunity to pick up points in Sunday's Super G.
A number of skiers crashed out of Saturday's race, including world downhill champion Michael Walchhofer, who had the fastest time before losing control and careening into the safety netting near the bottom. American Marco Sullivan, Austria's Klaus Kroell and Italy's Kristian Ghedina also crashed out.
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