St. Anton, Austria Jan. 30, 2001 (AP by Marsha Hill)--Daron Rahlves of the United States jolted the mighty Austrians on Tuesday by winning the gold medal in the super giant slalom at the world championships.
He became the first American to capture the event since the super-G was added to the world championship schedule in 1987.
The victory not only gives the United States an excellent start at skiing's premier event this year but bodes well for the 2002Olympics in Salt Lake City.
``It feels great to hear the words 'world champion,''' Rahlves said. ``It's crazy, it's been the dream of my life. My whole life hasbeen geared to be the best, to win.''
His triumph came one day after Megan Gerety of Anchorage, Alaska, made a strong showing in the women's super-G with afourth-place finish.
Stefan Eberharter, who won the men's event 10 years ago, took the silver Tuesday, edging fellow Austrian and defendingchampion Hermann Maier, who won the bronze.
Maier, the World Cup leader and the Olympic champion, has dominated this event the last few seasons. He made a mistake earlyin the race and then watched Eberharter come down next and finish ahead.
And while the Austrians were already beginning to celebrate a double, Rahlves thundered down the course named after Austrianlegend Karl Schranz to spoil the party for the home team and their fans.
The 27-year-old skier from Truckee, Calif., covered the treacherous, icy course in 1 minute, 21.46 seconds.
``More people will know me now,'' Rahlves said. ``To be honest, I didn't feel so good this morning, but I pulled it off.''
After winning two downhills in Kvitfjell, Norway, at the end of the last season, Rahlves shared third place with Eberharter atthe classic downhill in Kitzbuehel, Austria, less than three weeks ago. He was also fourth in the super-G there a day later.
Rahlves trained with the Austrian team during the summer.
``Maybe we let him train a bit too much with us,'' Austrian coach Hans Pum said. ``But it's good for the sport and good for us thatwe train with others. We knew he was going to be fast, but we didn't expect he would be that fast.''
``We have a very good relationship with the Americans and we have a contract to train with them up to Salt Lake City,'' Pum said.
Two other Americans, Bodo Miller and Chad Fleischer, crashed, while Casey Puckett finished out of the top 20.
Eberharter finished .08 seconds behind the American in 1:21.54.
``Rahlves is a great skier. He's proved himself in other races,'' Eberharter said. ``He put in a great race and I can onlycongratulate him.''
Maier was third in 1:21.69. Lasse Kjus of Norway, who shared the gold medal with Maier two years ago in Vail, Colo., was fourthin 1:21.73.
``The Americans, they always end up in the front at the worlds or Olympics,'' Maier said.
Maier, a two-time Olympic champ, will also be defending his downhill title at the world championships. He won eight racesearlier this season and is defending his overall World Cup crown and the super-G title.
``I am not so disappointed, to be honest,'' he said.
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