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Aspen, CO, Nov. 26, 2001 (AP by Bob Baum)–World champion Mario Matt of Austria earned the victory Monday on Aspen Mountain, but Bode Miller pulled off the biggest surprise by finishing second, the best result by the United States in a World Cup men’s slalom since 1988.
Miller, known for a reckless style that often ends in crashes, had not scored a World Cup point in the slalom since 1999, when he finished fourth twice.
Matt, with his fourth World Cup slalom victory, won in 1 minute, 39.08 seconds. Matt was third Sunday in the first of the two slalom races at Aspen, the only World Cup men’s stop in the United States this season.
Downhill and super G races scheduled this weekend at Beaver Creek were canceled because of a lack of snow and warm weather.
With a combined time of 1:39.69, Miller seemed headed for the first U.S. men’s slalom victory in the World Cup since 1983 until Matt, the next-to-last skier in the field, came down the hill. Jean-Pierre Vidal of France was third in 1:40.06.
No U.S. skier has finished this high since Felix McGrath was second to Alberto Tomba at Are, Sweden, on March 20, 1988. No American has had a podium finish _ top three _ since then. The last U.S. winner in the men’s slalom was Steve Mahre on Feb. 6, 1983, at St. Anton, Austria.
Miller’s performance enhanced his status as a medal hopeful for the Salt Lake City Olympics. He was third in a World Cup giant slalom last season in Val d’Isare, France.
After crashing in his second run on Sunday, Miller started 54th in Monday’s opening run. The 24-year-old skier from Franconia, N.H., was 16th after Monday’s first run.
But he had the fastest time of all competitors in the second run _ 50.93 seconds _ a near-flawless, smooth performance in stark contrast to his nearly out-of-control effort on Sunday.
Miller’s finish more than salvaged an otherwise difficult day for the United States. Tom Rothrock of Cashmere, Wash., in his third World Cup start, was a surprising eighth after the first run but crashed midway down the course on the second run.
Erik Schlopy of Park City, Utah, was 32nd, two places shy of qualifying for the second run. Chip Knight of Stowe, Vt., was 36th and Sacha Gros of Vail, Colo., 46th. Casey Puckett of Aspen didn’t finish the first run.
Ivica Kostelic of Croatia, the brother of women’s skiing great Janica Kostelic, finished fifth after earning his first World Cup victory on Sunday.
“I didn’t like this course,” Kostelic said after the first run. “The Austrian was the course-setter and, of course, he set up for their guys to be the fastest.”
Austrians were first, second and fourth after the first run. But following the second run, on a course set by the Italian coach, only Matt made it to the podium.
Vidal scored his first career World Cup points with a 12th-place finish on Sunday. Two years ago, Vidal injured both knees in training and underwent surgery. He came back to win the national titles in the slalom and giant slalom last March.
Alain Baxter of Britain failed to reach the second round of a World Cup slalom for the first time since 1999. He was 33rd in the first run.
Copyright © 2000 The Associated Press