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Alpine Skiing Monday, 11 February, 2002, 02:02 GMT
Irish skier's lasting impression
Paul Patrick Schwarzacher-Joyce after finishing last
Schwarzacher-Joyce was happy to get down the slope
By BBC Sport Online's Alex Gubbay in Salt Lake City

Finishing 53rd and over 15 seconds behind eventual winner Fritz Strobl would not normally be anything to shout about.

But Irishman Paul Patrick Schwarzacher-Joyce arguably got the loudest cheer of the day during the men's downhill at Snowbasin.

The 29-year-old fell halfway down the two-mile course, but somehow got back on his skis, stayed inside the gates on the course and sped through the finish line to a hero's welcome.

"I was just happy that I had made it down in one piece," he beamed afterwards.

For me, every time I get to the finish, I have achieved something, no matter what my time is

Paul Patrick Schwarzacher-Joyce
"It was quite bumpy and I must have caught an inside edge. I fell sideways, but luckily didn't miss a gate.

"I couldn't give up in a race like this - there was no way I was going to stop.

"And it was worth it for that steep finish into that superb atmosphere."

The capacity crowd had given every skier a rapturous reception - but reserved a special salute for the last man down when they witnessed his mid-race mishap on the big screen.

"They saw that I was enjoying myself, and they liked that.

"Sometimes you see skiers banging their poles into the snow when they see their time. For me, every time I get to the finish, I have achieved something, no matter what my time is.

"And downhill is just the best buzz imaginable - I love taking risks and where else can you go down a slope with no-one in your way and everyone watching you?"

It is not surprising that with a name like Schwarzacher-Joyce, it is not only Irish blood in this skier's body.

Paul Patrick Schwarzacher-Joyce in action at Salt Lake City
Schwarzacher-Joyce is part of a seven-strong Irish team
Born in London, his mum is from Dublin but his dad is Austrian - so he trains and works during the winter in St Anton.

His accent is appropriately all over the place too - though he is undeniably loyal to his Gaelic roots.

"I am very proud to represent Ireland at a competition like this - after all, there are so many Americans here with Irish connections.

"Back in Ireland, my sister had got some friends together to watch the race in a pub called The Roost.

"And I may allow myself a Guinness or two tonight as well."

Schwarzacher-Joyce, one of a seven-strong Irish team here, is no newcomer to the Olympics, having finished a creditable 15th in the combined event at Nagano.

But having never received any prize money, or sponsorship funds for competition, he cannot even afford a coach and has to wax and treat his skis himself.

A different league

"For many of the other guys, this was like another World Cup race, but not for me.

"While us guys at the back of the field try our best, it is a different game really.

"They are totally professional - where as I couldn't honestly say I am."

Maybe not, but the Salt Lake Games were all the incentive he needed to recover from a horrific crash last March in which he tore every single ligament in his right knee.

With the downhill now successfully negotiated, he also will race in the super-G and combined events here.

And as well as continuing with a Sports Science degree at Salzburg University, he already has his eye on another discipline for 2006.

"I'm actually ranked in the world top 50 as a snowboarder, so watch out for me in Turin. I'll be too old for all this downhill excitement by then!"

BBC Sport Online's Alex Gubbay

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11 Feb 02 | Alpine Skiing
Delays at the downhill
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