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Miller Returns to World Cup Podium


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ALTA BADIA, Italy, Dec. 22, 2003 (AP by Andrew Dampf) — Bode Miller was confident he’d return to the World Cup podium despite a few rough outings recently.

“I didn’t feel like I was ever off track,” Miller said. “My skiing was pretty decent the whole time.”

The American finished third in a giant slalom Sunday, hoping he put his struggles behind him.

Miller won the season’s first two giant slaloms, then failed to finish four of five races. He even took the unusual step of taking part in a women’s slalom as a forerunner to work on his form.

In a downhill race Saturday in nearby Val Gardena, Miller finished second-to-last and wondered if his skis were to blame. After watching the tape of his run, he saw that he had a good line and couldn’t figure out why he finished so far behind the leaders.

On Sunday, Miller’s biggest problem _ race-winner Davide Simoncelli _ was beyond his control.

“I had a great race,” Miller said. “There are only a few times I don’t mind being beaten. Either if I ski terribly or somebody else skis phenomenal.

“Simoncelli today skied as well as I’ve ever seen anyone ski GS that second run. He was fluid the whole way, took huge risks and was really aggressive and it looks effortless when that happens. I was not surprised that he beat me and I wasn’t very mad at all, either.”

Simoncelli became the first Italian man to win on the Gran Risa course since Alberto Tomba captured the last of his four victories here in 1994.

It was Simoncelli’s first World Cup victory and Tomba, now a commentator on Italian TV, was there to greet him.

“He told me to win more races, but that will be difficult because I’m not Tomba,” Simoncelli said.

Simoncelli had come close on the Gran Risa twice before, finishing as the runner-up to Finland’s Kalle Palander last week and to Miller in 2002. This time, the local favorite won by a huge 1.03-second advantage, with a combined two-run time of 2 minutes, 33.90 seconds.

Palander was the runner-up Sunday and Miller finished 1.21 seconds behind for third.

Simoncelli, an unassuming 24-year-old from nearby Rovereto, expresses none of the gregariousness and outlandishness that made Tomba so famous. Although Miller said Simoncelli has the potential to become a consistent winner like Tomba, even if the Italian’s best result away from Alta Badia was 15th in Park City, Utah, last season.

“I don’t think that will be for long,” Miller said. “With Palander last week, this is kind of a breakthrough hill. You have to be right on the top of your game and have confidence to win, and I know because I’ve won before.”

Simoncelli was the last skier on the course after also leading the first run.

“I had a stupendous first leg,” he said. “The second was a little tougher. I’m not used to waiting so long, but it went well.”

Hundreds of fans lined the course in overcast conditions and a few thousand spectators, including a Swiss school band, surrounded the finish area.

Miller’s teammate Dane Spencer finished 11th after posting the second-fastest time in the second run. Another American, Daron Rahlves, nearly fell midway through his second run and finished 28th.

Hermann Maier of Austria held onto his overall World Cup lead despite a 26th-place finish.

The “Herminator” appeared tired after two top-five finishes in Val Gardena on Friday and Saturday and sprawled himself out on the ground after his second run.

After a break for Christmas, the men’s circuit resumes with a downhill race in Bormio next weekend.

 Copyright © 2000 The Associated Press