FILE UNDER -- Alpine

Kitzbuehel: American intrigue: Sullivan's 14th boosts Torino hopes

Kitzbuehel: American intrigue: Sullivan’s 14th boosts Torino hopes{mosimage}KITZBUEHEL, Austria – For the sub-Daron Rahlves and Bode Miller U.S. skiers, Saturday’s downhill was crucial for Torino Olympic qualification in speed events.

Marco Sullivan, Scott Macartney, Steve Nyman and Justin Johnson had plenty to gain, or lose, Saturday. All four stepped it up with solid results, but Sullivan made the biggest statement, finishing 14th, 1 minute, 40 seconds off the winning pace. He was 16th last week at the Wengen downhill and is skiing solid after two years of knee injury rehab.

“I’m feeling really good,” Sullivan said. “First of all just to make it down that thing is always a pleasure. I think that result may have gotten me on the Olympic downhill team. Possibly – it’s going to be tight – but at least I got myself into contention.”

Macartney finished 20th, Nyman 26th and Johnson 31st. Rahlves and Miller are assured two of the four American downhill spots at the Torino Games. Sullivan and Macartney may be next in line, but U.S. Ski Team coaches have some tough deliberations in the coming days in advance of Bill Marolt’s official Olympic alpine team announcement Wednesday in Las Vegas.

“We’ve got our work cut out for us,” U.S. coach John McBride said after Saturday’s race.

Macartney now ranks 28th in downhill, Nyman 30th, Sullivan 32nd and Johnson 51st. Macartney said he felt confident he had earned Olympic berths in both downhill and super G after Saturday’s race. “I had a couple sections I wish I could do over,” he said. “Entering the Hausberg, I put my ski into some soft snow, just barely outside the line and I kind of plowed, felt myself losing a lot of speed. But I was really psyched how I skied the bottom – I really stuck my nose in, tried my best to carry speed across that sidehill. Sometimes it’s little individual actions in a run that make it a great day.”

Johnson needed a big result for an Olympic berth but missed scoring a point by three-hundredths of a second. He saw some positives in his downhill form Saturday. “It’s the best I’ve felt on race day all year so far,” he said. “I skied really well on the Steilhang up top, just got rocked in the middle section. I had that one mistake up there and it cost me on the flat section. But overall it was good.”

If he doesn’t earn a ticket to Torino, he’ll gear up for Vancouver. “I’d like to go through 2010,” Johnson said. “That’s my goal right now. Especially because it looks like I’m looking on the outside for Torino.”

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