February 15, 2006

Dorfmeister wins gold at last

By Clare Fallon

SAN SICARIO, Italy (Reuters) - Michaela Dorfmeister won the
one prize that has long eluded her with Olympic gold in the
women's Alpine skiing downhill on Wednesday.

The 32-year-old Austrian World Cup and former world
champion, who will retire next month, wept in the finish area
as she realized she had won the first Olympic gold of her long
and distinguished career.

"This was my last dream," Dorfmeister told reporters. "Now
I will be able to retire with a perfect feeling and I can't
wait to start a new life.

"I have been so nervous for the last two days. I couldn't
sleep. My legs were so heavy at the start of the race, then I
said to myself: 'Hey, let's go for it'."

Swiss Martina Schild took silver with overall World Cup
champion Anja Paerson of Sweden winning bronze in the first
women's Alpine race of the Turin Games.

World champion Janica Kostelic of Croatia did not start the
downhill because of a high pulse rate.

Defending Olympic champion Carole Montillet-Carles, of
France, finished more than two seconds off the pace after
suffering a bad crash in training on Monday.

Dorfmeister had made no secret of her ardent desire to fill
the one gap in her trophy cabinet.

Twice a world champion in the speed events, overall World
Cup champion in 2002 and four times a winner of season-long
titles in the individual cups, she had never quite made the
grade at Olympics.

In 1998, she took silver in the super-G, missing out to
winner Picabo Street of the United States by an agonizing 0.01

Four years ago, in Salt Lake City, the best she could do
was fourth in giant slalom.


Dorfmeister's time of one minute 56.49 seconds down the
2.5-km Fraiteve piste on the first cloudy day of the Games was
0.37 seconds ahead of Olympic rookie Schild, who has never done
better than fifth in a World Cup race.

Schild, 23, is the granddaughter of the first women's
downhill champion in Olympic history, Hedy Schlunegger, who won
in 1948.

"I felt this was my course and my day," said Schild, who
had set the fastest training time on the slope on Monday.

Paerson, who won giant slalom silver and slalom bronze at
the 2002 Games, clocked 1:57.13 despite almost crashing halfway
down the course.

The Swede is a relative newcomer to downhill and won her
first race in the discipline just under a year ago.

"I come from a very small village with only small mountains
and for us to get a medal in downhill was not even a dream
three years ago," Paerson, who will be a favorite in every
event here, told reporters.

Last year's World Cup downhill champion Renate Goetschl of
Austria was sorely disappointed to finish fourth, just 0.07
seconds behind Paerson.

"It is the same as getting an 'E' in an exam," said
Goetschl who has two silver and two bronze medals from previous
Olympics and world championships.

Lindsey Kildow took a late decision to race after being
taken to hospital following a training crash on Monday. The
American, who banged her head when she careered down the slope,
finished joint eighth, 1.29 seconds behind Dorfmeister.

The Fraiteve claimed more victims on Wednesday, including
the daughters of two former Alpine skiing Olympic medallists.

Liechtenstein's Tina Weirather, daughter of 1980 double
gold medallist Hanni Wenzel, crashed out, and Austrian
Elisabeth Goergl, whose mother Traudl Haecher won downhill
bronze in 1960, fell. Both appeared to be unhurt.