Accola out for season


SOELDEN, Austria (AP) -- Former World Cup overall and super-G champion Paul Accola is expected to miss the season due to injuries sustained in a fall during free skiing Friday.

Accola ruptured his left Achilles' tendon, broke two bones in his left ankle and fractured three vertebra, one day before the start of the World Cup season.

Swiss team doctor Walter Frey said Accola will be out several months and thinks the injuries might end the skier's career.

The 34-year-old Accola insisted he would return next season.

Accola was expected to undergo surgery in Davos, Switzerland, later Friday or Saturday.

Accola won the World Cup overall and super-G titles in 1992 and won bronze in the combined event at the 2001 World Championships.

New format debuts

ERICA BULMAN, Associated Press Writer

SOELDEN, Austria (AP) -- The International Ski Federation unveiled new starting procedures for the speed disciplines and added a special "Knock Out" slalom to boost fan interest.

A day before the first World Cup race of the season, FIS outlined the dramatic changes in determining the starting order in the downhill and super giant slalom races at its annual Forum Alpinum at the glacier resort of Soelden on Friday.

In the downhill, the 30 fastest skiers in the final training session will start in reverse order. Previously, a seeding system permitted the top 15 skiers to choose starting positions.

In the super-G, which does not have training runs, the top 30 in the WCSL rankings will start in reverse order.

"We changed the format because the interest in the downhill and super-G decreased dramatically after the first 10 results, meaning there was no more interest after 15-20 minutes," said FIS competition director Gunther Hujara.

"For the downhill, we decided to use the training run times to give the skiers a little tool they can use to help decide when they want to start. To develop a strategy."

Two "Knock Out" slaloms are scheduled, one men's and one women's in Sestrieres, Italy, on Dec. 15-16. The men's will be run at night. The K.O. slaloms are a series of elimination races. The nine skiers who reach the final run start in reverse order, with the fastest skier winning the race.

With the outcome of the race uncertain until the last skier, FIS hopes the K.O. slalom will generate more interest.

Top American men diversify

ERICA BULMAN, Associated Press Writer

SOELDEN, Austria (AP) -- Bode Miller and super-G world champion Daron Rahlves will be teammates and adversaries this World Cup season.

Resolute in their attempts to improve in weaker events, the Americans can expect as much competition within the team as from outside.

The World Cup season starts this weekend on a glacier in western Austria with men's and women's giant slalom races.

Miller solidified his spot among skiing's best last year, claiming four World Cup victories and finishing fourth in the overall standings -- the best result by an American man since Tommy Moe was eighth in 1994.

This season, Miller plans on attacking the speed events.

"I have a lot more confidence in the downhill now," said Miller, who switched ski brands last summer. "Last year, I didn't have confidence on my skis and on the hard snow they weren't right for me, which made it tough to ski aggressive. So I avoided the situation altogether.

"We can't tell how it will go until we get onto some hard snow. Only time will tell. We'll know by the end of December."

Miller hardly competed in the downhill last year. He was upright almost the entire run at Wengen and, wary of the dreaded Hahnenkamm, skipped the combined event at Kitzbuehel, shortly before the Olympics.

Rahlves, who finished eighth in the super-G and a disappointing 16th in the downhill at the Olympics, has recovered from a dislocated hip and is becoming more comfortable with the technical giant slalom.

"It's a matter of getting a good start in the GS," Rahlves said. "I've been trying to get the GS going the last couple of years. This year I've focused on hard work and I'm coming into the season in better shape.

A meeting between Miller and Rahlves could be interesting.

"The downhill is one of those events where anyone can beat anyone on any given day," Miller said. "If I can go into it with 100-percent confidence, I can beat anyone in the world."

Miller expects to challenge World Cup slalom champion Ivica Kostelic, as well as French stars Jean-Pierre Vidal and Sebastien Amiez, the Olympic gold and silver medalists at Salt Lake City.

Frederic Covili, the first Frenchman in 31 years to win a globe, will defend his giant slalom title.

The dominance of champion Stephan Eberharter and his Austrian teammates will be tested.

As 2001 champion Hermann Maier spent last season recovering from a motorcycle accident that almost cost him a leg, Eberharter became a star.

He swept the overall, downhill and super-G globes and nearly claimed the giant slalom, winning a total of 10 World Cup races.

Maier's return to competition was delayed again after the Olympic and three-time World Cup champion injured his leg in August while attempting to gate ski for the first time since his accident. No date has been set for his return.

Austria will rely on Fritz Strobl, the Olympic gold medalist in the downhill, and Andreas Schifferer, the Olympic bronze medalist in the super giant slalom.

Kirsten Clark, Sarah Schleper, Katie Monahan and Jonna Mendes will lead the U.S. women's downhill team in the absence of Picabo Street, who retired after the Olympics.

Croatia's Janica Kostelic lost both her overall and slalom titles after three knee operations last year. She regained her form for the Olympics, becoming the first Alpine skier to sweep four medals -- three gold and a silver.

World Cup champion Isolde Kostner, Olympic gold medalist Carole Montillet, World Cup overall champion Michaela Dorfmeister and Olympic bronze medalist Renate Goetschl should lead in the downhill.

In the super-G, World Cup champion Hilde Gerg of Germany should be challenged by Olympic champion Daniela Ceccarelli.

Sonja Nef of Switzerland will be seeking her third straight World Cup giant slalom title.