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  Saturday, 8 February, 2003, 12:52 GMT
Austrian takes downhill title
Michael Walchhofer
Walchhofer sprung a huge surprise
Austria celebrated gold in the men's downhill at the World Ski Championships in St Moritz.

But it was the lesser-known Michael Walchhofer who took the crown in a time of one minute 43.54 seconds.

Norway's Kjetil Andre Aamodt was second in 1:44.05 and Switzerland celebrated their first home medal with Bruno Kernen in third place with a time of 1:44.51.

Walchhofer had never won a top class race before.

He had been the nearly man on four occasions this season, with second places in the World Cup downhills at Wengen, Bormio, Val Gardena and Beaver Creek.

I feel really great - it's an amazing, almost overpowering feeling

Michael Walchhofer

But he put in a strong performance to stun the rest of the Austrian team.

Pre-race favourite Stephan Eberharter had never lost a race in the Swiss resort but the World super-G champion could not even manage a podium in Saturday's downhill. He finally finished fifth.

And Hermann Maier, back from a horrendous motorcycle crash, could only manage eighth.

A stunned Walchhofer said: "I feel really great - it's an amazing, almost overpowering feeling.

"I've had a great downhill season and today I was really up for it."

Aamodt, 31, set a new record as he picked off his 12th medal at world championships, to move one ahead of compatriot Lasse Kjus and former Luxembourg racer Marc Girardelli.

Aamodt now has a total of 19 world championship and Olympic medals.

It is always hard to return to the correct racing state of mind when something like this happens

Finlay Mickel

Defending world downhill champion Hannes Trinkl was disappointing, finishing 31st.

The 34-year-old Austrian is considering retiring at the end of the season after an illustrious career but he shook his head after a poor performance in St Moritz.

American favourite Daron Rahlves, winner of this season's Kitzbuhel downhill, dramatically missed the final gate of the race and was disqualified.

Mickel rues bad luck

His compatriot Bode Miller, who already had a combined gold and super-G silver from these championships, could not make it three medals in three races as he ended well down the pack.

Britain's sole downhill representative was 25-year-old Finlay Mickel, who was hoping for a top 30 finish.

The Scot had to start his race for a second time when he was yellow flagged because the skier before him, Germany's Max Rauffer, fell on the course.

Mickel had to climb the 187 steps to the start gate and finished the race in 33rd position, in a time of 1:47.36.

He said afterwards: "It is always hard to return to the correct racing state of mind when something like this happens.

"I had hoped to be in the top 30 today. I just missed out by three places, but feel that I could have made it had my initial run not been interrupted."

Downhill result:

1. Michael Walchhofer (Austria) 1 minute 43.54 seconds
2. Kjetil Andre Aamodt (Norway) 1:44.05
3. Bruno Kernen (Switzerland) 1:44.51
4. Didier Cuche (Switzerland) 1:44.67
5. Stephan Eberharter (Austria) 1:44.68
6. Erik Guay (Canada) 1:44.70
7. Ambrosi Hoffmann (Switzerland) 1:44.73
8 Hermann Maier (Austria) 1:44.76
8 Antoine Deneriaz (France) 1:44.76
10. Fritz Strobl (Austria) 1:44.78

The 2003 World Ski Championships from St Moritz

Race reports

Competition
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