Miller Crashes, Covili Takes GS Gold

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Alta Badia, Italy Dec. 16, 2001 (AP by Jeff Israely)--Bode Miller looked primed for his third World Cup win in a week.

But after two victories last week--and the best time in Sunday's first heat--the 24-year-old American skier fell just a few gates into his final run in the World Cup giant slalom.

Miller was unhurt and upbeat after the crash.

Known for his aggressive style, the New Hampshire native joked with teammates after the race, saying he quickly forgot about his plans to play it safe in the second run.

``I was thinking that I was just going to ski it,'' he said. ``Then I made two good turns, and there went that plan.''

The win went to Frederic Covili, whom Miller edged by .02 seconds in the Val d'Isere giant slalom Dec. 9. Covili used the same slim margin to defeat defending GS world champion Michael Von Gruenigen on Sunday, extending his lead atop the standings.

Covili finished with a total time of 2 minutes, 40.58 seconds to Von Gruenigen's 2:40.60. Like Miller, Covili emerged this season as one of the new forces on the World Cup tour.

The Frenchman is impressed with the American.

``He is unpredictable, but one of the strongest skiers, so anything can happen,'' Covili said after his second win of the season. ``He is really aggressive.''

The 26-year-old Covili never finished higher than fourth before this season, and now holds a commanding lead in the GS standings with 280 points.

Von Gruenigen of Switzerland, runner-up to Herman Meier in the GS World Cup standings last year and winner of the St. Anton World Championship, moved into second place in the race for this year's World Cup crown with his time of 2:40.60.

Sami Uotila of Finland finished in 2:40.67 for third place, his best career showing.

Austrian Christoph Gruber had the best second-run time to move from 30th place after the first run to finish in a tie for fourth with compatriot Benjamin Raich.

Miller was looking to become the first American to win two straight giant slalom races since Phil Mahre won three in a row in 1983 on the way to taking the GS title.

Still, Miller's wins last week in the giant slalom in Val d'Isere and the slalom in Madonna di Campiglio ended 18-year World Cup droughts for Americans in each discipline,

Miller had the best first-run time of 1:19.88, just .04 ahead of Covili.

Miller's personal coach, Martin Andersen, had no complaints about his star pupil.

``After winning last week and looking so good in the first run, it's a learning experience,'' Andersen said. ``Bode's still happy, and looking forward to the next race.''

Copyright © 2000 The Associated Press