Saturday, February 16, 2002
Aamodt wins second gold in four days
SNOWBASIN, Utah -- He's called the Baby Shark, a rather strange nickname for a shy, humble guy who once studied ballet. Put him on skis, though, and it's obvious the moniker is a perfect fit.
Kjetil Andre Aamodt of Norway captured his second gold medal in four days, beating the favored Austrians to win the super giant slalom Saturday. He now has seven Olympic medals, a total unmatched in Alpine skiing history.
Aamodt, whose first name rhymes with Shaquille (as in O'Neal), maintained his balance on a treacherous hairpin turn that wiped out many of the favorites and ruined the medal hopes of American Daron Rahlves.
Aamodt has had quite a week at the Salt Lake City Games.
He was fourth in the downhill last Sunday, missing a medal by 0.37 seconds. He won the combined event on Wednesday, and won his first Super G race in six years on Saturday.
"The combination gold was the important one for me, I was the favorite. When I managed to win that, it gave me a lot of confidence," Aamodt said. "Today was just a bonus."
Aamodt, 30, who also won the Olympic Super G in 1992 and was a bronze medalist in 1994, won by a tenth of a second over Stephan Eberharter of Austria. Another Austrian, Andreas Schifferer, took the bronze medal.
Eberharter, who got bronze in the downhill, has dominated the speed races on the World Cup circuit this season in the absence of injured teammate Hermann Maier, the 1998 Olympic champion in Super G.
He had been favored for gold in both the downhill and Super G at the Salt Lake City Games. In a rare display of emotion, Eberharter threw his helmet and skis to the ground in the finish area Saturday.
Eberharter partly blamed his defeat on the Austrian coaches, saying they failed to warn him about the tricky turns near the bottom.
"There was a lack of communication. I got every information possible at the start except what would happen if I entered the final steep slope a little too tight or a little too fast," he said. "I was going too fast, so I couldn't get through those two gates cleanly. I definitely lost gold there."
Rahlves, the reigning Super G world champion, had several bobbles and went wide around several gates -- leaving a plume of snow in his wake -- and finished eighth.
"Obviously, a big disappointment," said Rahlves. "This is the one I wanted to win, but I just made too many mistakes."
Rahlves skied tentatively at the section leading onto Rendezvous Face -- the spot at which the racers first came into the view of fans at the bottom of the course -- and several other top skiers faltered there.
The racers barreled off Buffalo Jump, the steepest section of the course, when they quickly had to make a blind left turn and then a sharp right onto Rendezvous Face.
Eberharter slipped trying to make that right turn, losing valuable moments but managing to stay on course. Didier Cuche of Switzerland was not as fortunate, slipping at that spot and missing a gate.
"It's definitely the trickiest and toughest Super G course I've ever skied on in my life because of the terrain and the way they set the course," Rahlves said.
Aamodt, who has an unprecedented 17 medals in the Olympics and world championships, finished the icy course in 1 minute, 21.58 seconds. Eberharter's time was 1:21.68 and Schifferer's was 1:21.83 -- just 0.09 seconds faster than downhill champion Fritz Strobl, yet another Austrian.
"To win a Super G after 10 years in the Olympics is just a dream come true," Aamodt said. "I've worked hard all my life. I love skiing. I love competition. That's the secret of my success."
Rahlves, who stunned Austrian crowds last year by capturing the world championship there, finished in 1:22.48. He finished 16th in last weekend's downhill.
Thomas Vonn of the United States came from the 33rd starting position to finish ninth in 1:23.22.
The Super G was the last Olympic men's race at Snowbasin. After the women's Super G on Sunday, Alpine competition shifts to Park City for the women's slalom Wednesday.