Austria’s Walchhofer wins downhill | AspenTimes.com

Austria’s Walchhofer wins downhill

Erica Bulman
The Associated Press
Aspen, CO Colorado

Austrian Michael Walchhofer skis the World Cup Downhill course on his way to winning the event on Friday, Nov. 30, 2007, in Beaver Creek, Colo. (AP Photo/Nathan Bilow)

BEAVER CREEK, Colo. ” Michael Walchhofer of Austria edged Steven Nyman by 0.05 seconds to win a World Cup downhill Friday, breaking the American men’s four-year victory streak at home.

Nyman, the runner-up, was followed by Didier Cuche of Switzerland. Bode Miller, a two-time winner of this race, was sixth.

Walchhofer ended an embarrassing slump for Austria’s men, who until now had failed to win a World Cup race this season. The last Austrian man to win was 2006 overall champion Benjamin Raich at the season’s final slalom last March.

Walchhofer benefited from slightly lighter snowfalls to complete the Birds of Prey downhill in 1 minute, 13.74 seconds. It was his 12th career World Cup victory, his ninth in downhill. He had finished second, third, fourth, fifth and sixth in Beaver Creek the previous five years.

“It was an important victory for me,” Walchhofer said. “It’s one of the most difficult downhills. The Austrian press was waiting and watching for this victory. Our team is doing well at the moment, but it’s not easy to win. In previous years I used to basically fight only against Austrians, but nowadays ski racing is more international and I am fighting against skiers from all nations.”

Race officials lowered the start of the downhill because of high winds on the upper part of the course. Descending fog forced a 10-minute race hold after 25 skiers. Early racers had to deal with varying intensities of snowfall, which got lighter after the first 15 racers.

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Nyman made a mistake on the lower half of the course that cost him the victory, and the Provo, Utah, skier had to settle for second.

Nyman, who was skiing through particularly heavy snowfalls, came through the colossal Golden Eagle jump but then sat back on the tails of his skis going through the Abyss. He ended up skiing through it on one leg with the other in the air, and was fortunate not to crash.

“I did that every single training run, but I did it best this time” Nyman said. “But I skied the way I wanted to. I kept my line the whole way down. There are so many things that could have brought you the victory. You can’t get brought down by that.”

Cuche, who was fastest in both training and the downhill portion of Thursday’s super-combi, was 0.10 off the winning pace. He made two mistakes in quick succession early on, largely because he came into that section with less speed than in training because of the lowered start.

“That’s where I lost the victory,” Cuche said after the 32nd top-three result of his career. “Sometimes you win and are surprised, but today I was skiing for the victory. So I’m happy I’m on the podium but a bit disappointed with the mistake I made.”

The last non-American to win this downhill was Austria’s Stephan Eberharter in 2002. Miller won in 2006 and 2004, while now-retired Daron Rahlves triumphed in 2005 and 2003.

Andrew Weibrecht of Lake Placid, N.Y., appeared set for a top-three placing until he made a similar mistake as Nyman through the Abyss.

Weibrecht had already crashed through one of the gates, taking it with him, on the upper part of the course. But he maintained his concentration and posted the fastest second split. By the third interval, he was in third position However, he lost his podium finish in the Abyss. One leg flailed wildly in the air, but he managed to stay within the course limits and finished in 10th place.