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ST. ANTON, Austria, Feb. 15, 2004 (USST)–Bode Miller attacked the second run of slalom Sunday, and went on to his fifth World Cup win of the season, the best showing by a U.S. man since Phil Mahre won six races (and the overall, giant slalom and combined titles) during the 1983 season. Miller also barged his way back into the overall World Cup points parade, moving up to third, one point out of second place.
Miller, the only American to reach the second run, previously had won two giant slaloms and both combined tallies this season. He had a two-run time of 1:34.60 for the 11th win of his career with Finn Kalle Palander in second place at 1:35.55 and local hero Mario Matt, the 2001 World Championships slalom gold medalist in St. Anton, third (1:35.69).
Outdoor Life Network, which follows the World Cup all season, will broadcast coverage today at 5 p.m. of Saturday’s downhill in St. Anton where Miller was eighth behind Austrian Hermann Maier. There will be another rebroadcast Thursday at 10 p.m. ET.
His victory—Miller’s first in slalom since January 2002 under the lights and before tens of thousands of howling fans in Schladming—marked the first time any U.S. Ski Team, male or female, has won in all five disciplines (SL/GS/super G/downhill/combined) in a season. A hasty check of records also indicates no U.S. Ski Team had athletes win in all four events in the pre-SG days; super G arrived with the 1983 season.
He stands third behind Mahre (27) and Tamara McKinney (18) on the list of U.S. alpine World Cup winners; Mahre won the 1981, ’82 and ’83 overall World Cup crowns while McKinney was the 1983 overall women’s champion. This was only the third World Cup weekend in St. Anton since 1988; the last time racers came to this renowned alpine village, Miller wasn’t around for the slalom after crashing—and tearing left knee ligaments in the combined downhill during the 2001 World Championships.
Fog forced organizers to turn on course-side lights by mid-morning to provide better visibility and warm weather softened conditions for the final run although the sun moved clouds away.
Miller didn’t hold back
While most skiers had a problem with the softening conditions, Miller went right at the final course. He led by .17 after the first run – with Norway’s Truls Ove Karlsen in second place and Palander third, .56 back. Midway down the run, he was .84 ahead before finally finishing .95 up on Palander.
“I needed two good runs and I got two good runs,” Miller said. “I still had some more to give out there.” Discussing the points battle, he said, “It’s gonna come down to the last few races. What I need now is for some guys to start beating Hermann.”
The win moves Miller into third place overall behind Austrians Hermann Maier, who doesn’t ski slalom, and Benjamin Raich, who skied out in his first run. Maier has 1,054 points to 985 for Raich and 984 for Miller. Raich doesn’t ski many downhills and suffered a concussion in a super G two weeks ago in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany. Miller is the only racer to have run every event last season into the present.
“It’s gonna be tough but if I can keep winning slaloms like this – and GSes, it’s gonna come down to the wire,” Miller added. “One of the things I’ve got going for me is I’m the only one skiing all four events.”
Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the USA” poured from the public address speakers as the Carrabassett Valley Academy racer realized he had won it. He called it “one of those ski races that makes you really enjoy racing as a competitor…
“I really pushed my limits the second run. It would have put a smile on my face even if I hadn’t won.”
He was top-3 twice in slalom this season. “I started to sound like a broken record, telling the press my slalom wasn’t so bad, the equipment wasn’t so bad,” he said. Everything worked. It was just one thing or another” that kept victory beyond his reach.
“He pushed it to the edge…”After the race, Miller spraayed the crowd and himself with champagne. He joined Austrian ski racing legend Karl Schranz – “he’s a super cool dude,” Miller said—in the VIP Tent and then left to chanfge into dry clothing and the post-race press conference.
Mike Morin, men’s SL/GS head coach, said, “Bode’s second run was absolutely incredible. He pushed it to the edge and hard as he could push it – which is how Bode likes to win races…
“He attacked for the finish line and it took him a second to realize he had won by almost a full second. The crowd was cheering and when he finished, the crowd went crazy. It was out of control,” Morin said.
Tom Rothrock (Cashmere, WA) skied out in the first run while Chip Knight (Stowe, VT) was 31st, just missing a second run as he made a mistake on the top part of the course and then skied conservatively “when he should have charged it more,” Morin said.
The men get two weeks off before they race again in Kranjska Gora, Slovenia, with their annual giant slalom and slalom weekend Feb. 28-29. Then it’s on to Kvitfjell, the 1994 Olympic hill north of Lillehammer, for downhill and super G before World Cup Finals March 10-14 in the 2006 Olympic region around Sestriere, Italy.