Miller still hoping for slalom bid at worlds
The Associated Press
KITZBUEHEL, Austria – Things might be looking up for Bode Miller.
On Sunday, he came within five gates of completing a slalom for the first time in a year. It also marked the second time in three weeks that he qualified for a second run.
Miller wants to become the first skier to collect world championship gold medals in all five disciplines, but he has just one more chance to meet the U.S. team’s qualifying criteria for the slalom at worlds.
Nations can enter four athletes in each discipline at the world championships, which begin Feb. 3 in Are, Sweden. Ted Ligety, seventh in Sunday’s slalom, and Jimmy Cochran have qualified. Miller, Tom Rothrock and Tim Jitloff are vying for the two remaining berths.
“Of the three guys Bode is a pretty good candidate,” U.S. head coach Phil McNichol told The Associated Press, but Miller’s quest for a gold-medal sweep was “the last thing that could affect my choice.”
In 2005, Miller won the world championship downhill and super-G in Bormio, Italy. In 2003, he won the giant slalom and combined, and took silver in super-G.
On Sunday, he couldn’t even finish the race.
The 29-year-old American finished the first leg in 17th place after getting thrown off balance near the bottom of the course. In his second run, Miller, who had to make up 1.35, was just .40 off the leading pace when he tripped up.
Saturday, Miller missed a gate midway down his first run, hiked back up two sets of gates to rerun it, then lost a ski moments later and crashed.
Miller has failed to complete 18 of his last 21 World Cup slalom races. The last World Cup slalom he completed was here in Kitzbuehel on Jan. 22, 2006 when he finished 18th.
The 2004 overall champion has five career World Cup slalom victories, but the last one dates back to Dec. 13, 2004.
Miller’s bad luck is in stark contrast to young Jens Byggmark’s good fortune. The 21-year-old Swede won back-to-back slaloms in Kitzbuehel, pocketed $173,000 in prize money and will have his name painted on one of the gondolas that ride up the majestic Hahnenkamm, joining past Kitzbuehel champions Jean-Claude Killy, Alberto Tomba, Franz Klammer, Hermann Maier and Byggmark’s idol and countryman Ingemar Stenmark.
Fifth after the opening leg, Byggmark delivered a superb second effort to win with a combined time of 1 minute, 44.20 seconds. Until this weekend, Byggmark’s previous best World Cup result was a fifth-place finish in a slalom at Beaver Creek, Colorado, last December.
Austria’s Mario Matt was second to Byggmark for the second straight day, crossing in 1:44.23.
Manfred Moelgg of Italy, the first-run leader, took third in 1:44.25.
Ligety, 27th after the first leg, had a blistering second run to finish seventh in 1:44.78. On Saturday, he was 15th.
“I know what the deal is. I know technically and feeling-wise, but for some reason I can’t find it out of the start gate,” Ligety said. “Normally, I’m really clean getting onto the edge, and I can push on the ski nicely and early. I was having trouble finding that clean edge to push off of.”
Norway’s Aksel Lund Svindal still leads the World Cup overall standings with 760 points. Switzerland’s Didier Cuche is second with 677, and Miller’s third with 640.
Mikaela Shiffrin did a lot of soul searching after she didn’t win a medal and didn’t finish three of her five individual races at last year’s Beijing Olympics after entering the games amid enormous expectations.