Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Bode wins in GS and slalom, too

Miller stretches World Cup lead to 391

Bode Miller signs autographs for Sun Valley kids during a 2002 visit to Sun Valley. Photo by Willy Cook

Bode Miller's early-season success in World Cup downhill staged on North American slopes wasn't a fluke.

The 2004-05 racing season is quickly turning into a showcase for the 27-year-old Carrabassett Valley Academy grad.

So far, Miller has won both giant slaloms and the only slalom held in Europe—and in the process has stretched his World Cup overall lead to 391 points over defending World Cup king and four-time champ Hermann Maier, 32, of Austria.

The latest Miller success story happened Monday night in the annual floodlit night slalom at Sestriere, Italy.

Miller took a commanding first-run lead and held on for a 1.27-second win over Switzerland's Silvan Zurbriggen.

He became only the second skier in history to record wins in all four Alpine skiing disciplines in the same season, following Marc Girardelli's feat in 1989, 15 winters ago.

It was Miller's 18th World Cup victory—and sixth in 10 races so far in the current campaign. Miller has finished on the podium seven times.

"Bode led the first run going at 80%, he skied really clean, and then he went after it on the second run," said U.S. head coach Phil McNichol. "He didn't take a lot of risks, but it was just really good skiing."

Added Miller about his recent successes on the tour, "When you feel good it makes everything easier, and I'm healthy, haven't been sick. My balance is good and the necessary things are in their place."

Miller skied a nearly flawless second run to win Sunday's giant slalom at Val d'Isere, France, over runner-up Lasse Kjus of Norway—a two-time World Cup king—and third-place Maier.

Bode won on the Val d'Isere course where he captured his first World Cup victory, also a GS, back in 2002.

Miller, fourth fastest in the first run behind three Austrians topped by Maier, said, "I attacked pretty hard on that second run. I didn't try to win it; it wasn't like I took crazy chances, but I took enough risks that I knew if I executed I could win."

Bidding to become the first U.S. man to win the overall World Cup title since Phil Mahre in 1983, Miller also fattened his lead by placing fourth in Saturday's downhill at Val d'Isere. Maier was far behind in 26th place.

Miller had won the season's first two DHs in Alberta and Colorado.

Miller's fourth place at Val d'Isere was the best by an American on the Oreiller-Killy course since AJ Kitt won the opening DH of the 1992 Olympic season. It was a personal best on the hill for both Miller and U.S. speed ace Daron Rahlves, tied for seventh behind winner Werner Franz of Austria.

Meanwhile, Finland's technical specialist Tanja Poutiainen snatched back the women's World Cup lead by winning her third race of the Alpine ski season Sunday, a slalom at Altenmarkt, Austria. U.S. racer Sarah Schleper was seventh.

Austria's Alexandra Meissnitzer captured her 13th World Cup victory Saturday, a super giant slalom at Altenmarkt. Ninth-year U.S. Ski Team racer Caroline Lalive was just knocked off the podium and finished fourth. Julia Mancuso was fifth as four American women made the top 15.

Here are current men's overall standings: 1—Bode Miller (U.S.) 730. 2—Hermann Maier (Austria) 339. 3—Benjamin Raich (Austria) 316. 6—Daron Rahlves (U.S.) 236.

In women's overall, Poutiainen, 24, currently has a 48-point lead over defending champion Anja Paerson of Sweden, and now leads by 58 points over 2001 and 2003 overall queen Janica Kostelic, 22, of Croatia.

The women have back-to-back downhills Dec. 18-19 at Val d'Isere before super giant slalom and GS Dec. 21-22 at St. Moritz, Switz. The men go to Val Gardena, Italy for downhill and SG this weekend.

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