All-around skiers dominate world championships
BORMIO, Italy – Even though it’s tougher to be an all-around skier these days, the all-around skiers are tougher to beat.Bode Miller and Benjamin Raich combined to win four of the five men’s races at the world championships, which ended Sunday, and Janica Kostelic and Anja Paerson took home all five women’s gold medals.”I think Bode and me and Janica – we’re just determined that we want to do all four events and we know we can do good in all events and it’s a short career,” Paerson said. “It’s tough, though. There are more races and the season is longer now and we don’t have a lot of days to rest.”Sweden’s Paerson won the super-G and giant slalom – the only two races that Kostelic didn’t enter.Kostelic won gold in the combined, downhill and slalom. The Croat skipped the opening super-G race and was forced to sit out the giant slalom because she had the flu.”I’m lucky. I won everything I raced,” Kostelic said. “Becoming part of skiing’s history evokes unforgettable feelings. But it was tough.”Paerson also was satisfied with her medal haul, which included a silver behind Kostelic in the combined.”I was up there for five gold medals and I came home with two and one silver. I’m very happy,” Paerson said. “My goal was to come home world champion and I did it.”
Overall World Cup leader Tanja Poutiainen of Finland won two silvers, in the giant slalom and slalom.Marlies Schild, who entered with three World Cup wins this season, was the bronze medalist in the combined and fellow Austrian Renate Goetschl, a speed specialist, placed third in the downhill.Julia Mancuso, a 20-year-old American, took home two surprising bronzes in super-G and giant slalom. Italy’s Lucia Recchia snatched an unexpected silver in super-G and unheralded Sarka Zahrobska of the Czech Republic claimed bronze in slalom.The biggest surprise came when 19-year-old Elena Fanchini of Italy thrilled the home crowd by taking silver in downhill after making her World Cup debut only a month earlier.”There are a lot of girls coming up. That’s the way skiing should be,” Paerson said. “It should not be one or two girls skiing fast, it should be a tight event between everyone.”Italy also won two medals in the men’s competition, with Giorgio Rocca taking bronze in combined and slalom.The biggest surprises among the men came when Norway’s Aksel Lund Svindal won silver in combined, and American downhill specialist Daron Rahlves finished third in giant slalom for his best result in that event.Otherwise, it was the Benni and Bode show – Austria’s Raich won the combined and slalom, and Miller finished first in the super-G and downhill.Raich also claimed silver in the giant slalom and bronze in the super-G, while the make-or-break Miller crashed out of his other three events.
“I am maybe more consistent,” Raich said when asked about Miller. “He started very well with two golds. I started more moderately, with a bronze. But now I have four medals, including two golds.”Raich trails Miller by just 95 points in the overall World Cup standings.Miller gained all the headlines the first week with his speed, success and late-night partying. By the end of the championships, however, he was in no mood to face questions about the three races he didn’t finish.”Now that he’s good for super-G and downhill, maybe he’s lost something in (slalom and giant slalom),” said Alberto Tomba, adding, however, that Miller is “the only one now who can win in slalom and downhill.””He likes to win or go out. He doesn’t like finishing third or eighth place,” Tomba said.Perhaps the most memorable race of the championships came when Hermann Maier won the giant slalom for his first world or Olympic title since returning to action from a motorcycle accident that left his right leg shattered.”All the medals I’ve won are important, but this one has an even more specific meaning, after my crash, being able to stand back up, so to speak,” Maier said.Or maybe it was when Americans Miller and Rahlves finished 1-2 in the downhill to upstage the Austrian “Wunderteam” in skiing’s signature event. Austria’s Michael Walchhofer, the defending champion, was relegated to bronze, adding to his silver in super-G.Part-time pop singer Rainer Schoenfelder earned Austria another medal – bronze in slalom.
The worlds concluded Sunday with Germany winning the new team event ahead of favored Austria for its first medal of the championships. France, which also had no medals entering the final day, took bronze.The team event, which involves six-person teams of men and women skiing super-G and slalom, was a big hit with skiers, fans, and the International Ski Federation.”You only have to look at the teams. They all entered their top skiers,” FIS secretary general Sarah Lewis said. “I already spoke to the Finns on how they’re going to build their team to be able to participate in 2007,” she said. “The Norwegians as well.”Austria led the final medals table with three golds and 11 medals overall.Once powerful Switzerland was left without a medal for the first time since the 1966 worlds in Portillo, Chile.Another low point came when nearly all of Italy was embarrassed when a small union of Italian RAI state TV workers went on strike less than an hour before the men’s giant slalom, forcing organizers to postpone the race by a day.The protest left organizers for the 2006 Olympics in nearby Turin uneasy, fearful that the scene could be repeated at the Winter Games, the next major event in skiing.
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