Dorfmeister wins mind game in downhill event

WINTER SPORTS: Michaela Dorfmeister worked with a mental trainer to become better prepared for pressure

AP , ST. MORITZ, SWITZERLANDAP, KITZBUEHEL, AUSTRIAAP, SAPPORO, JAPANAP, OBERSTDORF. GERMANYAP, ST. MORITZ, SWITZERLANDAP, WINTE

Mon, Jan 23, 2006 - Page 18

Positive thinking worked for Michaela Dorfmeister.

The Austrian, who is racing in her final season before retirement, credited her mental trainer on Saturday after winning a women's World Cup downhill -- a day after winning the super-G.

"I have been working a bit with my mind and with a special coach and what he taught me helps a lot," Dorfmeister said. "I had good thoughts at the start, I am thinking that most of time it doesn't matter what happens in the finish, life goes forward. Thinking this gives me less pressure."

Dorfmeister covered the 2,828m Corviglia course in 1 minute, 43.76 seconds for her first downhill victory this season and seventh of her career. The 32-year-old Austrian, who has 24 career World Cup wins, had four other podium finishes in downhill this season.

Teammate Renate Goetschl finished second in 1:43.83, finally breaking through a troublesome mental barrier of her own to claim her first podium result of the season. Overall World Cup leader Janica Kostelic, who recorded her first career downhill victory last week, placed third in 1:43.95.

Dorfmeister said the big change in her skiing came at last year's world championships in Bormio, Italy, where she failed to finish the downhill, super-G and giant slalom.

"There was so much pressure by myself and everyone else and I can't handle this by myself," Dorfmeister said. "It's not good for me so I made the decision never go to a ski coach for mental help. I said last season I will try a mental coach and see how it works."

Goetschl, the 2000 overall champion, had been unable to find her winning form this season.

The leaders were threatened by late skiers as conditions sped up. Swiss skiers Martina Schild, who started in 45th, placed fifth in 1:44.11, while Monika Dumermuth, who started 39th, finished sixth, only 0.42 behind.

Reigning overall champion Anja Paerson of Sweden placed seventh, 0.45 off the pace, while Lindsey Kildow, the winner of two downhills this season, finished out of contention in 17th after losing valuable time on the flats.

Dorfmeister leads the discipline standings with 412 points after six races. Kildow is second with 301 points, followed by Kostelic in third with 280. Dorfmeister also owns the discipline leader's red bibs in the super-G.

Kostelic broke the 1,000-point barrier in the overall standings, which she leads with 1,058 points. Dorfmeister, who overtook Paerson for second place after Friday's super-G, now has 930 points, while Paerson is third with 721.

Kildow was near tears in the finish area.

The American won back-to-back downhills in Lake Louise, Alberta, and Val d'Isere, France, but has stalled since. She finished ninth and 18th in last weekend's downhills in Bad Kleinkirchheim, Austria.

"Every race I'm losing time on the flats and it's not because I'm not a good glider," Kildow said. "It's really frustrating because it's not something I can fix. I can only ski my best and I am skiing my best. I skied really well today and I probably was top two in the turns and I'm just losing so much time in the flats it's so frustrating.

"It's been the same problem the last three races. I'm just going to watch video and improve upon what I can, but honestly I think I'm skiing some of the best I've skied."

Michael Walchhofer returned to the spot where he made his first Austrian downhill team -- Kitzbuehel's notoriously dangerous slope.

And he won.

Walchhofer, who turned to speed races after being unable to make the Austrian slalom team, won Saturday's men's World Cup downhill on the Streif course in 1 minute, 46.75 seconds. It was his second downhill title of the season but first at Kitzbuehel.

"I feel great," Walchhofer said. "I pushed hard and had a couple of problems at the traverse, but it was enough to win."

Liechtenstein's Marco Buechel came second, 0.05 behind, and Daron Rahlves of the US secured third, 0.33 back.

Defending overall champion Bode Miller finished fourth on the course, which had to be shortened due to adverse weather on the upper section.

Walchhofer, who has won eight career World Cup events, including five downhills, also won a downhill this season at Val d' Isere, France, in early December.

Despite becoming one of Austria's leading speedsters, Walchoffer's rise was not so smooth.

"I didn't have a place in the slalom team, so I tried to get into the downhill side," Walchoffer said.

His breakthrough came in Kitzbuehel in 2001, where he finished ninth in the downhill and "got a ticket into the team."

Miller, who has been struggling to recover his form, was satisfied with his skiing.

"I was having fun out there as usual," Miller said. "I had some problems with my knee and I might miss the next race, but it was OK."

The result was Miller's second-best in the downhill this season. The world downhill champion was second at Beaver Creek, Colorado.

Rahlves, who plans to retire at the end of this season, was emotional after skiing his last race on his favorite course.

He has been one of the most successful skiers on the Hahnenkamm. In 2003, he became the first American to win a World Cup downhill here and a year later was the first non-Austrian to claim a World Cup super-G on the slope.

His third place marked the seventh time Rahlves had climbed the podium in Kitzbuehel.

"It has not yet settled that this was the last time skiing down the Streif for me," Rahlves said. "I was like a freight train, I really wanted to go out and give it my best -- all that I had.

"Kitzbuehel is the ultimate in downhill skiing. There is no place like it in the world. I didn't win, but being on the podium is still a nice way to go out."

Organizers were forced to lower the start of the classic Streif as a cloud of thick fog shrouded the treacherous tip of the course, including the dreaded Mausefalle (Mousetrap) -- a spectacular 6? drop with a gravity-defying turn.

With the Turin Olympics just around the corner, Norway's Roar Ljoekelsoey got a huge confidence boost on Sunday with his first World Cup ski jumping victory of the season.

Ljoekelsoey made the day's longest jump of 140ms on his first attempt at the K120 Okurayama hill and then followed it up with a leap of 125.5m to claim victory with 281.4 points.

"I like this hill very much, it suits my technique," said Ljoekelsoey, who won here last year.

"I had two good jumps today. The first was really good and the second was good as well but I just didn't get the takeoff that I wanted."

Ljoekelsoey led Norway to a team ski flying world championship on Jan. 15 in Austria and said he is feeling good about his prospects heading to the Olympics.

"The win in flying and this win will give me a lot of a lot of confidence heading to the Olympics," said Ljoekelsoey.

Japan's Daiki Ito was second yesterday with jumps of 137.5m and 128m for 280.9 points, while compatriot Takanobu Okabe was third with 258 points after jumps of 117.5m and 137.5m.

Ito, a member of Japan's Olympic ski jumping team, had a solid jump in his first attempt but couldn't close the gap with Ljoekelsoey on his second attempt.

Many of the top jumpers, including overall World Cup leader Jakub Janda of the Czech Republic and defending world champion Janne Ahonen of Finland, decided to sit out this event.

Bjoern Einar Romoeren of Norway, who won Saturday's event, finished fifth with 247.2 points after jumps of 122.5m and 126.5m.

Janda leads the overall standings with 872 points, followed by Ahonen with 755. With yesterday's win, Ljoekelsoey moved into third place with 590 points.

Tobias Angerer won his fifth straight cross-country skiing World Cup race by taking victory in a men's double pursuit event on Saturday.

The German finished the two 15km legs, one classical and one freestyle, in 1 hour, 14 minutes, 9.7 seconds. He edged Sweden's Anders Sodergren by 0.4 seconds, while Germany's Rene Sommerfeldt was third, 25.2 back.

Beckie Scott of Canada won a women's double pursuit of two 7.5km legs in 39:44.3 by pulling away from three rivals on the final hill.

Germany's Claudia Kuenzel was second, 6.7 back, and Katerina Neumannova of the Czech Republic was 15.5 behind to finish third.

Marit Bjorgen of Norway did not enter, but retained her lead in the World Cup standings with 645 points to Russia's Julija Tchepalova at 580.

Angerer is comfortably ahead of Tor Arne Hetland in the men's standings. He has 685 points to the Norwegian's 455.

"He has to belong now to the Olympic favorites, but we are glad to be in that position," Germany coach Jochen Behle said of Angerer.

Germany's Andre Lange and brakeman Kevin Kuske rallied from sixth after the opening heat to win a two-man World Cup bobsled race on Saturday.

The competition also counted as the European Championships.

Lange, who missed the last World Cup in Koenigssee, Germany, started 13th in the opening heat on the world's only natural bobsled track and clocked 1 minute, 6.93 seconds. The pair produced a track record 1:06.17 in the second run for a total of 2:13.10.

The Germans finished 0.11 seconds ahead of opening run leaders Ivo Rueegg and brakeman Cedric Grand of Switzerland.

The Swiss posted runs of 1:06.74 and 1:06.47 for an aggregate time of 2:13.21 and European championship silver.

Another Swiss pair, Martin Annen and Beat Hefti, took bronze with runs of 1:06.77 and 1:06.75 for a total 2:13.52.

Canada's Pierre Lueders and Lascalles Brown were tied with Rueegg in 1:06.74 after the first heat. But like several other teams, the Canadians grazed the side of the track exiting the first turn and finished the second run in 1:06.83 for a total of 2:13.57 and fourth place.

World Cup leader Todd Hays and brakeman Brock Kreitzburg of the US made a similar mistake at the same place but also struggled to get the push bar down in time after loading, leaving them in fifth. The Americans clocked 1:06.79 then 1:06.85 for 2:13.75.

Silke Kraushaar led the latest German sweep in the women's singles at the European luge championships on Saturday.

Kraushaar fought through thick snowfall to win in 1 minute, 30.607 seconds.

Tatjana Huefner was second at 1:30.761 and Barbara Niedernhuber was third in 1:30.936 as the German women maintained their stranglehold on the sport.

The 35-year-old Kraushaar, who leads the World Cup standings, established herself as the favorite for the Olympics, which start Feb. 10.

"In an Olympic season like this, this title was very important," Kraushaar said. "With a season like this, I can go to the Olympics relaxed, although this doesn't mean I am a lock to win."

Patric Leitner and Alexander Resch won their third straight European Championship gold in men's doubles in 1:29.824, ahead of fellow Germans Sebastian Schmidt and Andre Forker at 1:29.886.

Christian Oberstolz and Patric Gruber of Italy were third in 1:29.924.

Several lugers said the races should have been postponed because of the snow covering the track. They included Sylke Otto, the reigning Olympic champion, who finished sixth in the women's race.

"I could have built a snowman on the track -- that was irregular," the German said.

Nicola Rodigari of Italy won the men's 500m race on Saturday at the European Short-Track Speedskating Championships, a day after winning the 1,500m.

Rodigari finished in 42.613 seconds. Pieter Gysel of Belgium took second in 43.497 and Russia's Sergei Prankevitch was third in 43.590.

In the women's 500m, Evgenia Radanova of Bulgaria won in 45.174. Radanova also won the 1,500m on Friday.

Arianna Fontana of Italy was second in 45.562, and Russia's Tatiana Borodulina took third at 46.045.

Former Olympic champion Jean-Claude Killy said in a newspaper interview that French skiing is "heading for catastrophe."

Killy, a triple Olympic gold medalist at the 1968 Winter Games, told the Journal du Dimanche that French skiing lacks structure.

"The French system is not solid enough to produce regular results," Killy said. "If there are not improvements between now and the 2009 worlds at Val d'Isere, we will be heading for catastrophe."

Killy is not optimistic about French medal hopes at next month's Turin Games.