Canadian wins Saslong downhill; Miller 9th |

Canadian wins Saslong downhill; Miller 9th

Andrew Dampf
The Associated Press
Aspen, CO Colorado
Canada's Manuel Osborne-Paradis speeds down the course on his way to win an alpine ski, Men's World Cup downhill race, in Val Gardena, Italy, Saturday, Dec.19, 2009. (AP Photo/Alessandro Trovati)

VAL GARDENA, Italy – Manuel Osborne-Paradis of Canada won a World Cup downhill on the Saslong course on Saturday, while Bode Miller battled a sore ankle and headwinds to finish ninth.

Osborne-Paradis covered the 2.14-mile run in 2 minutes, 1.27 seconds, giving Canada’s injury-hit squad a morale boost with his second victory of the season.

Mario Scheiber of Austria was second, 0.13 seconds behind, while Swiss racer Ambrosi Hoffmann and Johan Clarey of France tied for third, 0.25 seconds behind the Canadian.

Two-time defending champion Michael Walchhofer placed fifth in 2:01.75, Miller finished in 2:02.04 and Didier Cuche – skiing with a broken rib – was 10th in 2:02.12.

Osborne-Paradis started ninth while Walchhofer, Miller and Cuche started between 19th and 22nd – just when a headwind rolled in.

“Cuche said he skied well, I skied error-free, Walchhofer said he couldn’t have skied any better and all of us are back a ways, so we just didn’t have the luck today,” Miller said.

The American has stopped taking painkillers for his ankle.

“It was sore but in the race it didn’t seem to make much difference,” he said.

The other top Americans were Marco Sullivan in 12th, Steven Nyman in 18th, Erik Fisher in 19th, Scott McCartney in 23rd and Andrew Weibrecht in 24th. Ted Ligety skipped this stop to prepare for giant slalom and slalom races in nearby Alta Badia on Sunday and Monday.

Hoffmann and Clarey were also early starters.

“Obviously the leaders between 16 and 22 had problems, but this is part of our sport,” Clarey said. “It’s an outdoor sport.”

Osborne-Paradis was joined in the top 10 by teammate Robbie Dixon in sixth.

“We know what our job is and what we have to do, and we’re not letting what’s going on around us to change that,” Osborne-Paradis said.

There have been an unusually high number injuries this season, and the Canadian team has been particularly hard hit, already losing downhill world champion John Kucera, Jean-Philippe Roy, Larisa Yurkiw and Kelly Vanderbeek before its home Olympics in Vancouver from Feb. 12-28.

Another Canadian, Francois Bourque, pulled up with a suspected torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee during Friday’s super G here, and will probably also miss the rest of the season.

It was the third victory of Osborne-Paradis’ career. He also won a super G in Lake Louise, Alberta, last month, and took a downhill in Kvitfjell, Norway, at the end of last season.

The Vancouver resident was third in the downhill here last year. This time he made a big mistake midway down, but then made up time on the bottom.

“I didn’t think I would even be (on the podium). I thought that was the end of my race,” Osborne-Paradis said. “But I stayed in my tuck and took a lot of risks. I was lucky to get away with what I did.”

Overall World Cup leader Carlo Janka and second-place Benjamin Raich both skipped the race, while Werner Heel and Andrej Jerman sat out nursing injuries from falls in Friday’s super G.

The French team has also had injury woes lately, with World Cup slalom champion Jean-Baptiste Grange and Pierre-Emmanuel Dalcin ruled out for the season.

“Hopefully this win will pick everyone up,” Clarey said. “It’s good for Jean-Baptiste and Pierre to see me on the podium.”

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