Norway's Aamodt shocks in super-G

34-year-old wins 4th gold of career

Miller, Rahlves falter

Men's alpine skiing

Turin Olympics

February 19, 2006|By CHRIS DUFRESNE | CHRIS DUFRESNE,LOS ANGELES TIMES

SESTRIERE BORGATA, Italy -- The surprise winner of yesterday's super-giant slalom conducted his post-race news conference in perfect English and could boast this day of being "best in the world."

It wasn't an American hanging gold around his neck, though, it was Norway's Kjetil Andre Aamodt, a Thor-like throwback who skied away a winner despite whispers shortly after he had arrived that he slightly resembled a plow horse.

Balding, aging and out of breath has never been a recipe for winning gold in alpine skiing, but there has never been anyone quite like the 34-year-old Aamodt.

Someone said if you looked at his media guide picture without knowing he was a skier, you'd think he were a bank president.

Yet, Aamodt made more Olympic history at Sestriere Borgata when, out of the 25th start - he zipped down in 1 minute, 30:65 seconds and made it stand up against Austria's Hermann Maier, who finished .13 of a second back and won the silver, with Switzerland's Ambrosi Hoffman taking the bronze.

Aamodt came to Turin as the all-time alpine leader in medals with seven. Now he has eight. Yesterday's win gave him his fourth gold medal, more than any other male skier in Olympic history.

"I don't have any plans for retirement," Aamodt, who also won super-G gold in 2002, said. "It would have been a good day to retire. I said that in Salt Lake City after the super-G and here we are. Maybe I'll be battling Hermann Maier in 2014."

While the trumped-up Americans skidded left and right down the course and talked about what might have been, Aamodt overcame age and injury to deliver one of the clutch performances in Olympic annals.

Bode Miller, the defending super-G world champion?

He crashed into a gate with his left shoulder, spun right and made a miraculous recovery on one ski just to avoid getting airlifted out, but joined skiers from Australia and Brazil who did not finish.

Daron Rahlves?

He answered his 10th place finish in downhill with a ninth-place super-G and now must hope for a mini-miracle in Monday's giant slalom if he wants to retire with an Olympic medal.

"I didn't have a good feeling," Rahlves said. "I was struggling to keep my skis on the ground."

Scott Macartney was seventh, the best U.S. finish. At the halfway point of the alpine events, the U.S. has one medal, seven shy of its goal.

"I think it's pretty poor for now, for sure," Rahlves said of the performance. "I think we should have been able to medal in every event, especially downhill and super-G."

Many could have learned a thing or two from Aamodt, a dogged competitor who battled back from a knee injury in Sunday's downhill to make more history.

"It's insane," Rahlves said of Aamodt. "He steps up at the right time. ... He really gears up for these big games."

He may not be as spry as he was at the 1992 Albertville Games, when he broke into the Olympics with a gold medal and bronze, but he's still the same Aamodt.

"It's easy to recognize him when he comes down the slopes," said Norwegian teammate Aksel Lund Svindal, acclaimed by some as the next Aamodt.

Aamodt strained left-knee ligaments while landing a jump in last Sunday's downhill, yet raced through it and finished in fourth place. The injury forced him to skip Tuesday's combined event, won by American Ted Ligety.

Chris Dufresne writes for the Los Angeles Times.

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