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Kernen Gets Rare Win in Downhill

January 18, 2003

WENGEN, Switzerland (AP) _ Bruno Kernen of Switzerland won a downhill Saturday on one of skiing’s most demanding courses for his first World Cup victory in seven years.

Austria’s Michael Walchhofer was second, followed by compatriot Stephan Eberharter, Friday’s winner.

Daron Rahlves of the United States, who was second Friday, was stopped midway down the course after Switzerland’s Daniel Zueger crashed ahead of him.

Rahlves was flown back to the top of the course by helicopter. He eventually started again but with tired legs finished eighth. Countryman Bode Miller was 11th.

Hermann Maier was a strong seventh. The Austrian star was competing in the downhill this weekend for the first time since almost losing a leg in a motorcycle accident in August 2001.

Maier was 22nd in Friday’s downhill and had failed to qualify for the second leg of a giant slalom Tuesday, the day of his comeback.

Kernen covered the 2.8-mile Lauberhorn course, the longest on the men’s tour, in 2 minutes, 28.69 seconds. Walchhofer was timed in 2:28.92 and Eberharter in 2:29.14.

``I feel like I have been reborn,″ Kernen said, his voice shaking. ``It’s too much for me to digest right now.″

Kernen last won a World Cup race in 1996 when he swept a weekend downhill double-header in Veysonnaz, Switzerland. He also won the downhill at the world championships in 1997.

At the Salt Lake City Olympics, he flopped during his downhill and finished 11th in the super giant slalom.

Kernen cheered in the finish area after seeing his name at the top spot on the scoreboard. He then wiped away tears after Eberharter crossed with a slower time, knowing he had won.

``My emotions are so raw,″ Kernen said. ``My feelings run even deeper now than when I won the worlds.″

This marked the first time a Swiss won in Wengen since William Besse in 1994. It was the first Swiss men’s downhill victory on the World Cup circuit since Didier Cuche in 1998.

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