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WORLD SPORT

Dorfmeister realizes final dream

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'This was my last dream' said Dorfmeister after her triumph

SAN SICARIO, Italy -- Michaela Dorfmeister won the one prize that has long eluded her when she claimed Olympic gold in the women's Alpine skiing downhill in San Sicario.

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.

Swiss Martina Schild took silver and overall World Cup champion Anja Paerson of Sweden won the bronze.

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 well off the pace after suffering a bad crash in training on Monday.

"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'."

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 seconds.

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

Difficult visibility

Despite Austria's world dominance in ski racing, Dorfmeister was the first from that country to win the Olympic downhill since Annemarie Moser-Proell at the 1980 Lake Placid Games.

On a ski run that overlooked magnificent, rocky mountains near the French border, visibility was difficult as clouds blended in with the snow. That only added to the toughness of a course that is by far the longest the women will ski this season.

Dorfmeister, who had already clinched the World Cup downhill title this season, dominated from start, staying in a tuck over the roughest parts and gliding smoothly over the jumps.

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Kostelic was tipped as one of the strongest downhill contenders

Her winning time of 1 minute, 56.49 seconds was 37-hundredths ahead of Schild, who is granddaughter of 1948 Olympic downhill gold medalist Hedy Schlunegger.

Schild's silver was a surprise, because she had only one top 10 finish and no medals on the World Cup circuit this season.

However, Schild was fastest in Monday's downhill training run.

Paerson, two-time defending overall World Cup champion, won two medals at the 2002 Olympics, a silver in the giant slalom and bronze in the slalom.

Regarding Kostelic a spokesman told Reuters: "After her thyroid operation two years ago we want to be careful and let her recover.

"She will start in all the other disciplines but not in today's downhill."

The Croatian was tipped as one of the strongest contenders in the downhill.

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