February 14, 2006
SESTRIERE, Italy (AP by Bob Baum)—American Bode Miller was disqualified from the Alpine combined Tuesday for straddling a gate in the first slalom run, just when he seemed to have built a commanding lead for his first Olympic gold medal.
The disqualification, the fifth straight time the often-reckless American has failed to finish a slalom race, gave the lead to Austrian Benjamin Raich, who had trailed Miller by nearly a second before the disqualification was announced.
Miller said he would leave it up to U.S. team coaches whether to protest.
It was Miller's eighth slalom this season, and he's only finished two without either a disqualification, a crash or skiing off course.
Like a cowboy riding a wild horse, Miller flailed down the course, a sharp contrast to the smooth, swivel-hipped style of Raich in a classic U.S.-Austrian showdown on a cloud-shrouded evening in the Italian Alps.
About three-quarters of the way through the run _ on the 42nd of 56 gates _ Miller pinned a red gate with his left ski and the post popped up between his feet.
The large scoreboard at the foot of the hill showed several replays after his run, but Miller's name remained atop the leaderboard for nearly a half-hour.
Miller, who had seemed set to become the first U.S. Alpine skier to win three Olympic medals, had a time of 2 minutes, 23.68 seconds through the downhill and one slalom run. Raich was 97-hundredths of a second back at 2:24.65.
Copyright © 2006 The Associated Press