Dorfmeister lifts Austrian spirits with downhill win
ST. ANTON, Austria (AP) -- Michaela Dorfmeister saved face for her country Tuesday, leading an Austrian sweep of the podium in the women's downhill to give the host nation its first gold medal of the World Championship.
Dorfmeister, who came under fire for her mediocre results this season, covered the 2,362 meter Gertrud Gabl course in one minute, 36.20 seconds to edge teammate and defending champion Renate Goetschl by .14.
"During the race I didn't think I was going so well, but it seemed to be enough, even though things didn't go so well in training," said the 27-year-old Dorfmeister. "At the start I looked up and said 'watch over me today'."
It marked the second consecutive Austrian sweep of the downhill podium at a world championship. In Vail two years ago, Goetschl led a sweep of the top four places, with Dorfmeister taking the silver.
This time, it was Goetschl who settled for second in 1:36.34, while Selina Herreger, the last Austrian skier to secure a berth on the team, took the bronze in 1:36.37.
Corinne Rey-Bellet of Switzerland was fourth in 1:36.90, while Italy's Isolde Kostner, a heavy favorite heading into the race and the leader of the downhill World Cup standings, finished a disappointing fifth, .80 off the pace.
It was a sweet victory for Dorfmeister, who was able to silence her critics.
Heavily criticized for a poor season and even poorer performances in training last week, there were even suggestions in the Austrian press that she should give up her place on the downhill team in St. Anton to another.
At first it appeared that Goetschl would successfully defend her crown, the Austrian taking the lead ahead of Herreger and the heavily favored Kostner.
But 16th out of the start hut, Dorfmeister surprised the field, squeezing in ahead of Goetschl.
The victory gave Dorfmeister her third career world championship medal, her first gold.
The title helped make up for Austria's disappointing performances so far. The powerful Austrian team, heavily dominant on the World cup circuit this season, had arrived at the worlds expected to sweep everything. But the hosts had been quickly humbled, failing to win any of the three other gold medals awarded so far.
The Austrians were shut out of the top-seven places in the women's super-G before American Daron Rahlves shocked the nation by winning the men's, edging home favorites Stephan Eberharter and home hero Hermann Maier, forced to settle for a mortifying third in his favorite discipline.
The Austrians again missed gold in the women's combined event, when Goetschl, poised to win, crashed out in the final slalom leg, handing the victory to Germany's Martina Ertl.
The St. Anton course has always been a favorite for Dorfmeister, who won her only World Cup downhill race here in 1996. She also finished second place in another downhill here and third in a super-G in 1999.
"St. Anton has always been a good slope for me," Dorfmeister, her eyes filling.
Though falling bitterly short of gold, the silver medal was still a kind of personal redemption for Goetschl, who had failed to even finish the super-G and combined events -- in which she was favored.
"I am satisfied with what I did," Goetschl said. "She (Dorfmeister) raced a great race and she deserves to win. I reckoned her as a possible winner.
"I gave everything and I can't be disappointed with my silver medal. I was quite happy with my run, I didn't make any big mistakes."
The bumpy course claimed its share of victims.
Third out of the start hut, Canada's Emily Brydon crashed out. Hitting a rut, the Canadian was whipped into the safety netting, her skis flying off as she slammed to the ground.
Though shaken, the young Canadian walked off course aided by race staff, who then bundled her into a sled for a ride down.
Herreger, who skied ahead of Brydon, described the course as "brutally choppy."
American Caroline Lalive wiped out on the very same spot, failing to finish her third race in a row.