Bormio, Italy (Jan. 12) USST - Bode Miller (Franconia, NH) ended his surprising slalom scoring drought Sunday by posting the fastest second run as he finished second in a slalom and regained the World Cup points lead. Croatia's Ivica Kostelic picked up his third straight SL victory with Erik Schlopy (Park City, UT) 11th and Chip Knight (Stowe, VT) 18th.
Kostelic, third in the first run, finished with a two-run time of 1:49.03, then watched as first-run runnerup Jean-Pierre Vidal of France, the Olympic champion, skied out and Finland's Kalle Palander, a former world champion but still chasing his first World Cup win, had problems and dropped to fifth place.
Miller, amazingly without a slalom point after the first three races, skied under control and was ninth in the first run. He ripped through the second run with the fastest time and finished in 1:49.43, seemingly resuming the duels he and Kostelic had a year ago as they each won three SLs and finished 1-2 in the points.
MILLER: "GOING SLOWLY HARDER THAN GOING FAST"
"It was a battle, really a challenging day," Miller said. "The first run I was going as slow as I could, taking it easy, taking no risks. It's hard. On the second run, I knew what I was getting into. For me to go fast on these skis, I make huge mistakes (while still adjusting to his new skis)...
"So, it was challenging and I was going into the second run knowing I had only one option. I was gonna make huge mistakes and try to stay in the course," he said. "The snow was good - not necessarily good for me but it held up decent for the field, so it was good."
He said the light was tricky. "The sun doesn't shine directly on the course, so it's in the shadows a bit but it wasn't as bad as the flat light we've had in places. It wasn't so much an issue today," according to Miller.
"It was very exciting," said U.S. men's SL/GS Head Coach Martin Andersen. "Bode did what he came here to do. He made the first run very mellow, didn't push in one turn, just skied it. He was a second (1.05) out and then he'd said he'd go for it in the second run and he did - and it was freakin' nerve-wracking.
"He was all over the place in real Bode style...but he pulled it off," the coach said.
"FASTEST GUY OUT THERE - EVERYBODY KNOWS IT..."
Reflecting on Miller's slalom drought after the first three races of the winter, Andersen said, "Second is good. It's a joke he had no points. The guy is the fastest guy out there and everybody knows it. We just need all the details. Everybody in Kranjska Gora knew it this week after he won that Europa Cup slalom by 1.8 seconds (Monday). People there couldn't believe what they saw. So, now he's rolling and that's good."
The slalom points drought wasn't on Miller's radar. "I wasn't worried about it," he said, knowing he'd get his points.
Andersen said the U.S. men trained with Kostelic and the Croatians for two days during the week. "The second run was a little too tight for Palander - he likes more distance between the gates - but Kostelic is so solid. He doesn't make mistakes; he isn't winning runs but he's so solid. It's fun. Those guys are such hard workers..." Coincidentally, women's World Cup leader Janica Kostelic, with a weekend off because of no races, was a fore-runner Sunday.
Miller leads the overall standings - "It doesn't mean anything right now," he cautioned - with 690 points and Austrian Stephan Eberharter, who reclaimed the lead Saturday by winning his fourth downhill of the season, is second at 655; he seldom skis slalom and he sat out Sunday's race. Miller and Eberharter meet again Tuesday in Adelboden, Switzeerland, and next weekend in Wengen with two DHs, a slalom and combined calculation.
Andersen said the word in Bormio was that former Olympic and World Cup champion Hermann Maier of Austria, out since a motorcycle crash in August 2001, is expected to return Tuesday in Adelboden. Austrians would not confirm the report.
FIS ALPINE WORLD CUP RESULTS
Bormio, ITA - Jan. 12
Men's Slalom (shifted from Chamonix, FRA)
1. Ivica Kostelic, Croatia, 1:49.03
2. Bode Miller, Franconia, NH, 1:49.43
3. Hans Petter Buraas, Norway, 1:49.64
4. Manfred Pranger, Austria, 1:49.72
5. Kalle Palander, Finland, 1:49.76
11. Erik Schlopy Park City, UT, 1:50.51
18. Chip Knight, Stowe, VT, 1:51.23
DNF-1: Tom Rothrock, Cashmere, WA
World Cup Standings
Men's Overall (18 races)
1. Miller, 690 points
2. Stephan Eberharter, Austria, 655
3. Kjetil Andre Aamodt, Norway, 415
4. Didier Defago, Switzerland, 414
5. Didier Cuche, Switzerland, 398
14. Daron Rahlves, Sugar Bowl, CA, 265
33. Schlopy, 136
44. Marco Sullivan, Squaw Valley, CA, 102
45. Knight, 97
71T. Rothrock, 39
78T. Jake Fiala, Frisco, CO, 29
82. Thomas Vonn, Newburgh, NY, 24
116T. Dane Spencer, Boise, ID, 9