SHIGA KOGEN, Japan Mar. 10, 2003 (USSA)–Bode Miller (Franconia, NH) will go into the World Cup Finals 93 points behind Stephan Eberharter. Miller, who saw heavy snow and wind wipe out Friday’s giant slalom in Shiga Kogen, went out in the first run of the weather-delayed slalom in Japan Saturday. Austrian Rainer Schoenfelder and Finn Kalle Pallander tied for the win in 1:41.14. Erik Schlopy (Park City, UT) was the only U.S. finisher, taking 14th in 1:43.57.
Pallander’s win, albeit with the tie, moved him ahead of World Cup leader Ivica Kostelic of Crotia with 578 points to 549 leaving Kostelic with only the March 16, World Cup finals slalom to defend his title.
Miller went out near the top of the first run in a flat section of the course, just before the first breakover. “He straddled the outside of an undergate and his outside ski went outside of the outside gate,” said U.S. Ski Team Head Slalom Coach Martin Andersen. “You don’t see that very often.”
Miller had leaned in on the gate, went down on his hip, and tried to pull it out on his inside ski, but just couldn’t recover.
It was a bitter blow for Miller, but he still heads into Lillehammer with a decent chance at overtaking Eberharter, who did not ski in the slalom. Friday’s giant slalom—Miller’s best event this season—was the second GS to be wiped off the World Cup calendar this season. Neither will be made up.
“He still has a chance, at least 50/50,” said Andersen, “but you just have to finish the races. This was tough for him.”
Miller came into the scheduled four-race Asian swing 185 points behind Eberharter, and left with the margin nearly cut in half. Miller was typically philosophical—never counting himself out. In fact, while he had a good chance of taking the overall lead into next week’s four-event World Cup Finals in Lillehammer, Norway, he still has a strong shot at the crown if he can stay close in the speed events, which he has much of the season, and pickup points in the technical events where he is clearly stronger than Eberharter. And he also heads to Norway with a 355 spread over third place Kjetil Andre Aamodt.
Miller will faceoff with Eberharter in the downhill and super G Wednesday and Thursday, with the title. Miller needs only a single 24th place finish to move the title determination into the Saturday and Sunday giant slalom and slalom.