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January 13, 2006
WENGEN, Switzerland (AP Erica Bulman)—Bode Miller was disqualified just yards from the finish of a slalom Friday, allowing Austria’s Benjamin Raich to win a World Cup super-combi and pad his lead in the overall standings.
Miller, the defending overall champion, was competing a day after his apology for his remarks during a TV interview about racing and drinking.
He was second fastest in the morning’s downhill and appeared to have won after the slalom, holding a lead of 1.11 seconds over Raich. But the American was disqualified for straddling a gate near the end.
Miller was unable to get his disqualification reversed after speaking with World Cup race Guenther Hujara.
His problems didn’t stop there. Miller skipped the mandatory downhill bib draw ceremony in the town square, letting down thousands of fans hoping to catch a glimpse of him. It was unclear why he was absent; no other skier missed the draw.
Miller, who often complains of his sponsor and media duties, was supposed to start 27th but will now be the 30th skier out.
“It just never stops with him,” Hujara said.
The super-combi, a new version of the traditional combined race, adds the times from a shortened downhill in the morning to a slalom leg a few hours later. Norway’s Kjetil Andre Aamodt was second and Italy’s Peter Fill was third for his first top-three finish.[pagebreak]
]Miller said while the front part of his right ski did hit the flattened gate, his foot and tail never crossed over the pole.
“My ski definitely hit the gate but it (the gate) went down the middle of the ski and my foot was on the right side of it,” Miller said, explaining why he completed his run even though International Ski Federation rules state skiers must abandon a race if they miss a gate to preserve the course. “The tip of my ski went over it but I didn’t hook it completely.”
Article 661.4.1 of the ski rules states that a gate has been passed correctly when both the competitor’s ski tips and both feet have passed across the gate line. The gate line in slalom is the imaginary shortest line between the turning pole and the outside pole. In other words, both skis must be in between the two poles.
Miller, whose sole victory this season came in December in a giant slalom at Beaver Creek, Colo., has struggled all season to recapture his form. Friday’s slalom leg was one of his best runs in the discipline in a long time.
“I’ve put a bit of energy in my slalom. I’ve felt so bad in slalom lately,” Miller said. “I felt better today. I’ll be back.”
The New Hampshire skier apologized Thursday for his comments during a CBS “60 Minutes” profile, regretting the “confusion and pain” he caused with his remarks about skiing and drinking.
Raich, a technical specialist who was 13th after the morning’s downhill run, delivered a stunning slalom leg to win with a combined time of 2 minutes, 38.46 seconds. Aamodt finished in 2:38.65 and Fill at 2:38.78.
“This is great. I’ve scored 360 points in one week,” said Raich, who won a World Cup giant slalom and finished third in a slalom last weekend in nearby Adelboden. “I didn’t do so well in the downhill today so I must still decide if I will race in the big downhill tomorrow.”[pagebreak]
]Raich and the Austrian men’s coach Toni Giger said it seemed clear to them watching Miller’s run replayed in slow motion on the jumbo screen in the finish that the American had in fact straddled the gate.“But I’m lucky I don’t have to make that decision,” Raich added.
Both super-combi races this season have seen the apparent winners disqualified.
In Val d’Isere, France, last month, Austria’s Michael Walchhofer was awarded the victory after winner Didier Defago of Switzerland was disqualified for violating equipment regulations.
On Friday, Walchhofer led after the downhill leg but lost time in the upper section of the slalom to finish fourth.
Better known as a downhiller, Walchhoffer began his career as a slalom skier but switched to the speed events as he began struggling with the newer technical skis at the time.
Italy’s Giorgio Rocca, who has swept all four slaloms this season, was 23rd but straddled in the slalom run.
“It’s OK. I’m not mad,” he said. “This was a good training for Sunday’s slalom.”
Copyright © 2005 The Associated Press