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 . world ski news
28 February 2010 - 00:43
Razzoli gets Italy its gold
Austria's men fail to medal
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OLYMPICS, ALPINE SKIING. WHISTLER, B.C. - When Giuliano Razzoli crossed the finish line to wrap up Olympic alpine racing in Whistler, Italians in the crowd yelled as if they were in pain. Strangers exchanged hugs. There were tears. In the media center in Vancouver, someone with a distinctly Italian accent got on the loudspeaker and said, "Finally. A gold medal for Italy."

The 25-year-old has focused only on slalom this season and the effort got him his first World Cup victory of his career in Zagreb.

While an astonishing 40 racers crashed or straddled gates in the first run at Whistler on Saturday, Razzoli ended up on top, then held his lead to the glorious finish, winning with a combined time of 1 minute, 39.32 seconds, dancing a tight line through two tricky gate sets in the wet snow and rain.

"It's unbelievable. I have won the Olympic Games and it's incredible. It's my dream for a long time," he said. "It was difficult after the first run because I was fast, but I know that I can win and I have done it."

Luckily Italy's own alpine skiing icon Alberto Tomba was on hand to pass along some advice to his countryman between runs.

"This afternoon Razzoli was yawning, so I told him 'Put some snow behind your neck and wake up. And now ski wild and ski fresh,'" said Tomba, who has been making the social rounds in Whistler for the last few days.

Naturally, with a friend like Tomba, Razzoli realizes the magnificent weight an Olympic gold medal carries in his country.

"Yes, I am very well aware that expectations were very high at home," he said. "There was a lot of pressure, I tried not to think about it. I tried to do my own job, and ski the best I could. I knew this medal was important for my country and my team."

As the last day of competition opened in rain, course workers surged on after another late night, treating the course with chemicals and doing what they could to keep the heavy slush out of the race line.

One starter after another was tossed off his line in the first run, but most of those putting down early speed kept it all day. Ivica Kostelic was among them, starting his second run about six tenths back but blazing a straight line to his second Olympic medal of these Games and the third of his career. It was almost gold. Because the Croatian has spent so much time since the last Olympics in the hospital battling back injuries and ended up finishing 0.16 seconds behind the Italian, the silver medal was almost like gold.

"In the end it was almost enough for victory," he said. "Since I've been through a lot of hospitals, I've seen a lot of things. This might sound funny to you, but I don't care what color is the medal, as long as I'm healthy. All of us one day will end up in a hospital, or spending time in a hospital. Then you'll realize silver is good. If you don't win gold by 0.16 of a second, you are also happy."

Sweden's Andre Myhrer, who put a large gap in his success on the World Cup with two slalom podiums in 2005 and his only victory, which came in Beaver Creek in 2006 then wasn't on the podium again until a second place in Wengen this season, put it all together in the slush on Saturday, finishing 0.44 off the pace, enough for the bronze. With this, he closed 2006 Olympic slalom champion Benjamin Raich and with him the entire men's Austrian team, out of the medals for these Games.

Raich, who with fellow Austrians Reinfried Herbst and Rainer Schonfelder swept the podium in the last Olympic slalom, ended up fourth, just 0.05 seconds away from a medal.

"That's very disappointing for our team but we have to handle it," Raich said. "We have trained very well and we were prepared, so that was not the problem. It was close. I was fourth today, in GS we had a fourth, and also in downhill. Always close. Normally the Austrian team always has a medal but this year it was impossible to catch one. It's hard but we have to accept it."

by Shauna Farnell
FISalpine.com
Sunday 28 February 2010

Austria's men fail to medal

The Austrian men ski team has failed to put an athlete on the podium at the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Games. It was the country's worst alpine showing since the Garmisch-Partenkirchen Games in 1936, when alpine skiing was first introduced at the Winter Olympics. Back then, with only three disciplines, no Austrians made it on to the podium.

Saturday was the penultimate day of the Vancouver Games for the Austrian quartet of Reinfried Herbst, Marcel Hirscher, Manfred Pranger and Benjamin Raich to live up to expectations. The Austrian skiers entered the two-leg slalom race as clear favorites but at the end of the day other nations stood on the podium.

Slalom champion from Turin, Raich ended up just out of the medals in fourth after his sixth place finish in the giant slalom event in Whistler.

"That's very disappointing for our team but we have to handle it. It's not easy," said defending Olympic champion and current leader of the overall World Cup Benjamin Raich. "We will go over things afterwards - in March. There is no point in doing so right now," the veteran skier said as the most successful of the men's team in Whistler.

"I have never known us to be so off beam. It's a low point, if not the low point in my coaching career," Austrian coach Toni Giger said.

The ‘Wunderteam' most recently hit a zenith in the 2006 Torino Games, when all but one alpine podium had at least one Austrian athlete, and where the men's team swept the slalom podium. The Austrians took home 14 of the available 30 medals in the alpine events. Four years later, the Austrians only claim four alpine medals, all earned by the ladies' team.

The Austrian men had a very successful World Cup season as they are better set up for the World Cup than for Olympic competition. While the World Cup allows up to ten racers per team, only four skiers can be entered at the Olympics. If the best athletes fail to podium in the World Cup, there is still a sufficient number of racers who can step in as Austria has a large pool of talented skiers. Olympic competition negates that advantage.

"It's hard to say (why the team have failed). We have trained very well and we were prepared, so that was not the problem. It was close," Raich said. "Normally the Austrian (men's) team always has a medal but this year it was impossible to win one. It's hard but we have to accept it.

Fortunately, the ladies collected four medals including Andrea Fischbacher's gold in the ladies' super-G. Elisabeth Goergl was able to step on the podium twice claiming bronze medals in both downhill and giant slalom, while Marlies Schild captured her third career Olympic medal taking silver in the slalom.

Austria is going through a rebuilding process following the recent retirements of legends Hermann Maier and Stephen Eberharter. The team has also suffered a raft of untimely injuries just before the Games.

Regardless, it is the first time in nearly 75 years that the alpine powerhouse has performed so poorly.

After failing to land a podium in the men's Alpine events and with the Austrians taking alpine skiing very seriously, Austrian newspapers were quick with criticism of the men's team. This made things even more difficult for the Austrians.

Raich, who is usually rock solid and does not make mistakes, hooked his hand on a gate in the giant slalom, losing time, eventually finishing sixth.

Surely, he and his team will face tough questions when they return home.

FISalpine.com
Sunday 28 February 2010


 
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Next:
Petra Majdic received Terry Fox award – 28 February 2010 - 12:07
Working at the Games – 28 February 2010 - 12:19
Closing Ceremony on Day 17 of the XXI Winter Olympics 2010 in Vancouver – 28 February 2010 - 12:21
Northug jr. wins gold in 50 km Classic Mass Start – 28 February 2010 - 21:57
The Volunteer Spirit – 01 March 2010 - 00:50

Previous:
Justyna Kowalczyk won 30 km Classic Mass Start – 27 February 2010 - 23:54
Neureuther's Olympic dream ends after 27 seconds – 27 February 2010 - 20:57
Riesch finishes Games with double the gold – 27 February 2010 - 00:23
Grishin Wins Aerials Gold – 26 February 2010 - 12:12
Splendid double victory of the USA, Bill Demong Olympic champion in Nordic combined – 26 February 2010 - 11:56

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