Bode Miller’s ploy backfires in downhill |

Bode Miller’s ploy backfires in downhill

Andrew Dampf
The Associated Press
Aspen, CO Colorado
Bode Miller, of the United States, speeds down the course during an alpine ski, Men's World Cup downhill race, in Bormio, Italy, Sunday, Dec. 28, 2008. Miller, who skipped Saturday's compulsory bib draw in order to get a later starting number, finished fourth. (AP Photo/Marco Trovati)

BORMIO, Italy ” Bode Miller’s ploy to gain a better starting position backfired when he slammed into a gate and finished fourth Sunday in a World Cup downhill won by Italy’s Christof Innerhofer.

Miller missed Saturday’s compulsory bib draw and was fined $933 and given the No. 46 starting spot, allowing him to ski when there was more sunlight on the icy Stelvio course.

International Ski Federation president Gian Franco Kasper called Miller’s move “a mockery.” He said there will be an inquiry to determine if the New Hampshire skier intentionally skipped the draw.

Innerhofer, the first starter out of the gate, notched his first World Cup victory. He was timed in 2 minutes, 3.55 seconds on a 2-mile course icier and harder than usual. Klaus Kroell finished second, 0.32 seconds behind, and fellow Austrian Michael Walchhofer was third, 0.95 back.

“Today was my day,” Innerhofer said. “I raced my first World Cup here and had my first top 10 finish here. Everything started here in Bormio for me.”

Top skiers are usually drawn between 15 and 22. Miller said he was absent because he was getting medical attention following a minor injury in training. Miller, who has yet to win this season, added that he didn’t mind being penalized.

“It was more my wrist is busted up and I needed to get it fixed,” he said. “I wasn’t worried about the repercussions.”

The penalty created an hourlong wait between the other top skiers and Miller’s run. Italy’s RAI TV went off the air after the top 30 skiers, then came returned to show Miller’s run.

“He’s just Bode ” he likes to stir it up every once in a while,” said Marco Sullivan of Tahoe City, Calif., the next best American finisher in 11th place. “He hasn’t had any controversy for a few weeks now. Bode is obviously a unique individual.”

Miller finished 1.15 seconds behind. He was faster than Innerhofer through the first two time checks before his entire upper body lashed into a gate at high speed.

“It just knocked the wind out of me a little bit, and distracted me,” he said. “It got me pretty good.”

Still, Miller was on pace to finish third at the final checkpoint before a slight error in the lower section.

“You use up so much energy trying to make a recovery from what happened on the top that it cost me that little bit of energy you need to be smooth on the bottom,” he said.

Two skiers crashed ” Marco Marsaglia of Italy and Bryon Friedman of the U.S. Both appeared to avoid serious injuries, though the subsequent delays pushed back Miller’s start even later.

“It hurt a little bit when those two guys crashed,” Miller said, referring to the light. “It would have been perfect had that not happened.”

All of which made for some jittery moments for Innerhofer.

“I was very nervous waiting for Bode Miller,” he said. “He had an incredible run.”

Miller won the downhill last year and took gold in the downhill and super-G at the 2005 world championships in Bormio.

The sun came out for the later starters and Miller had clearer conditions when he skied. However, clouds made the light even over the entire course for earlier starters.

“In the end, there wasn’t much difference,” said Innerhofer, whose best previous result was fourth in the super-G in Beaver Creek, Colo., this month.

Walchhofer leads Kroell 225-215 in the downhill standings, and Aksel Lund Svindal of Norway holds a 444-393 advantage over Benjamin Raich in the overall rankings. Svindal finished 17th.

The circuit heads to Moscow for a special New Year’s race aimed at promoting skiing for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.

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