Sunday, February 10, 2002
Eberharter: 'I was never assured to win the gold'
SNOWBASIN, Utah -- Putting on a brave face and a smile,
World Cup downhill champion Stephan Eberharter insisted Olympic
bronze was just dandy.
After winning five of the eight World Cup downhills this season,
the Austrian had entered the Olympics' showcase Alpine event as the
favorite, with his nation's high expectations heavy on his
The new star of the Austrian squad seemed poised to live up to
the ski-crazy nation's hopes on Sunday, sending a large contingent
of flag-waving fans into a wild frenzy when he lit up the top of
the scoreboard in 1 minute, 39.41 seconds.
But Eberharter's lifelong dream of Olympic downhill glory lasted
only a moment, as teammate Fritz Strobl sped across the finish line
less than two minutes later, edging him by 28 hundredths of a
second to take Olympic gold and bask in the adoration only Austrian
ski fans can lavish.
Moments later, Norway's Lasse Kjus dropped Eberharter from
second to third, squeezing between the two Austrians with his run
"It might be a problem for others not to win gold, but it isn't
for me," said Eberharter, who leads the World Cup overall
standings this season on the strength of five downhill victories,
three in the super giant slalom and one in the more technical giant
"I've always said this situation can happen, I was never
assured to win the gold. I was prepared for this," he added.
"Sure it would have been great to win gold but this is a great
start for me and I have two more chances to win gold or collect
other medals in the giant slalom and Super G."
The 32-year-old Eberharter also was quick to remind everyone of
his new World Cup downhill title, which actually is considered a
bigger achievement by skiers, requiring consistent success over an
"I mustn't forget this season, which has been tremendous,"
Eberharter said. "I've won nine races so far, I've won the World
Cup downhill title and hopefully I'll win the overall.
"I always believed in myself but honestly I never believed to
be that good in the downhill. But last year I started to do pretty
well and this year was great."
A victory, though, would have silenced critics who insist
Eberharter's success is largely due to the absence of injured
teammate Hermann Maier.
"I didn't feel any pressure, even though I knew everyone
expected me to win the gold medal, especially back home," said
Eberharter, who finished last season as runner-up in the overall
and downhill World Cup standings to Maier. "I was prepared for
this. I had a good night and a good morning, and a good bronze