Miller to Miss Saturday Downhill

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January 25, 2006

Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany (AP by Erica Bulman)—Bode Miller will miss his first World Cup race in almost four years when he skips this weekend's downhill and super-G.

U.S. ski team officials said Wednesday that Miller is taking a break, ending his streak of competing in 136 straight World Cup races.

His withdrawal from the races means Miller has all but given up on defending his overall World Cup title and is focusing on the Turin Olympics, which open Feb. 10.

"It's not so important for him, the overall, U.S. team spokesman Marc Habermann said. "He won it last year. This is something that had been discussed since the start of the season, taking a break before the Olympics.

The last race Miller missed was a downhill on March 6, 2002, in Altenmarkt, Austria.

Miller plans to compete in all five events at the Olympics and is expected to race in Chamonix, France, on Feb. 3-4 _ the final World Cup men's race before the games.

Miller has won only once this season and is fourth in the overall standings. He trails leader Benjamin Raich by 264 points. Raich has 952 points, followed by fellow Austrian Michael Walchhofer with 704 and American Daron Rahlves with 689.

Miller has failed to finish five of seven slaloms this season.

"For him not to finish as many races as he has is frustrating, U.S. men's speed coach John McBride said. "I think this whole race-every-single-race deal _ if everything is not lined up _ is not productive. You have to back up and ask what is my priority? To compete at my best or just make another start?

Miller's friend Jake Sereno wrote in a blog Wednesday that Miller was heading to "somewhere warm.

Miller has been at the center of controversy since the start of the season.

In October, he angered officials by calling anti-doping rules in skiing "a joke, and was fined last month for refusing to take a mandatory boot test after a World Cup slalom race.

Miller made more headlines by suggesting in a TV interview that he had raced under the influence of alcohol.

He apologized for his comments but was soon in trouble again, this time for completing a slalom in Wengen, Switzerland, despite straddling a gate.

After being sanctioned for that rule violation, Miller skipped the mandatory bib draw ceremony in the town square, letting down organizers and thousands of fans who braved the night's cold to see him.

Copyright © 2005 The Associated Press