Flachau, Austria March 10, 2002 (AP by Erica Bulman)--Frederic Covili of France won the men's giant slalom World Cup championship Sunday, denying Stephan Eberharter a sweep of the four season titles.
Michael von Gruenigen of Switzerland won Sunday's finale race, his 20th World Cup victory in the giant slalom.
Bode Miller of the United States finished the season in fourth place overall, the best World Cup showing by an American man since 1994.
Covili, a favorite who failed to medal at the Olympics, finished fifth in the race but it was enough to protect his lead.
Von Gruenigen, third after the opening leg, produced a scorching second effort down the artificially-hardened Griessenkar course to finish with a two-run combined time of 2 minutes, 41.12 seconds.
Austria's Benjamin Raich, leading after the first run, dropped to second in 2:41.25 but the result was enough to boost him into second place in the giant slalom rankings.
Eberharter, the overall, downhill and super-G World Cup champion from Austria, placed third in 2:41.69, to finish the season in third. Eberharter, the Winter Olympics' giant slalom gold medalist, had been looking to match Hermann Maier's four-title sweep of last season.
With Maier sidelined all season following a motorcycle crash, the 32-year-old Eberharter finally escaped his illustrious teammate's shadow, storming to the forefront to finish with the second-highest total of points in World Cup history.
He ended his season with 1,702 points. Only Maier, with 2,000 points in 2000 has collected more.
Miller failed to finish in the top three spots of the overall rankings after making costly mistakes in both runs Sunday to place 18th.
Miller had entered the race looking to score enough points to secure a top-three placing in the year-end overall standings.
The 24-year-old American had left himself a whopping 1.30 seconds to make up in the second leg, nearly crashing just three gates into the opening run, but made one of his trademark recoveries for the seventh-fastest time of 1:24.80.
In the next run, the double Olympic silver medalist had built a .68 lead on the top section of the course but skidded onto his side and almost off course after the halfway split.
``I have no regrets,'' Miller said. ``It was a great race and it's just the way things turned out.
``I knew I had to have a really fast second run and I made some awesome turns, just some really awesome turns. As it's turned out, watching the rest of the race, I think I could have done well here.''
Miller finished the season fourth in the overall standings with 952 points, marking the best result by an American man since Tommy Moe finished the season eighth in 1994.
Miller failed in his quest to become the first U.S. racer to finish the season with more than 1,000 points. A fourth place or better in Sunday's race would have been enough.
Copyright © 2000 The Associated Press