SNOWBASIN, Utah (Feb. 7) -- In the opening day of men's Olympic downhill training, the spotlight fell on the pre-race favorites. And Daron Rahlves (Sugar Bowl, Calif.) was very much in that spotlight. Rahlves finished a strong third behind Austrians Stephan Eberharter and Fritz Strobl.
Eberharter, starting 12th under clear skies, posted a 1:39.07. Strobl came down next in 1:39.19, with Rahlves starting 20th and posting a 1:39.77 -- 0.70 off Eberharter's pace, tying Norway's Lasse Kjus for third.
"I had a really good feeling today," said a reserved but confident Rahlves. "I really had some nice turns up on top."
"The course has a lot of little changes from last year," said Rahlves. The World Cup racers had a single training run on the Grizzly downhill a year ago before heavy snow wiped out the weekend schedule. "There are some little changes coming into the jumps and some changes in a few of the gates, just a little different timing."
Jake Fiala (Breckenridge, Colo.) was 30th in 1:41.99, with Bode Miller (Franconia, N.H.), training for the alpine combined, 32nd in 1:42.28.
"I had a good run -- didn't try to push it too much today," said Miller. "Downhill for me is really fun, I like the speed. I hope to ski more downhill some day but right now I don't have that much training. But on race day in the combined, I'm going to go all out in the downhill."
Most racers were complimentary about the course, which is renowned as one of the better Olympic downhill courses. "Actually, a lot of the course isn't all that fast because it's so technical and turny," said Miller. Still, measured speed-trap times were approaching 70 miles per hour, with estimates into the finish area as much as 80 miles per hour.
Rahlves appeared very comfortable with the course and very comfortable with his skiing. "I'm pretty happy but I'll work on a few variations of my line in the next two training runs," said Rahlves. "For me, an important part is right out of the start. It's important to carry speed out of the start into the flat section before the top jump. Beyond that, every part of this course is tough!"
Rahlves was 12th fastest on the day on the top section -- ironically matching Eberharter on that section, but was extremely strong on the bottom third of the course, posting some of the faster split times of the day.
The top three results looked familiar -- all being top names on the World Cup downhill circuit. While Rahlves wasn't into making predictions, when asked if he thought the ranking was indicative of what would happen on race day, he laughed, "Yeah, but maybe the order will be different!"
Marco Sullivan (Squaw Valley, Calif.) was 33rd in 1:42.13, Scott Macartney (Redmond, Wash.), was 42nd in 1:43.07, and Casey Puckett (Aspen, Colo.), training for the combined, was 47th in 1:44.07.
Downhill Training Cancelled
SNOWBASIN, Utah (Feb. 8) -- Heavy snow and wind forced cancellation of the men's and women's downhill training run scheduled for Friday at Snowbasin. Women's downhill training, originally set for 10 a.m., was moved to noon and officials were optimistic they would be able to get the first women's training run in. But continuing wind and snow forced a cancellation.
The fast-moving snow squall moved in before dawn. The U.S. women's alpine team had left its lodging for the mountain shortly after 7 a.m. before being called back. The team then headed back shortly after 8 a.m. for course inspection. At the start of inspection at 10 a.m. it was clear that conditions were not going to change, and officials cancelled. The athletes did get a chance to inspect the course, and will be back in training Saturday.
The original schedule for Saturday was the third and final men's training run at 10 a.m., with the women at 1 p.m.