Miller Wins First Slalom in Two Years

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ST. ANTON, Austria Feb. 16, 2004 (AP by Erica Bulman) -- Bode Miller spent the last two years trying to convince everyone that there was nothing wrong with his skiing. He finally proved it Sunday by winning a World Cup slalom event for the first time since January 2002.

``I started sounding like a broken record there for a while,'' Miller said. ``I kept telling the press my slalom isn't bad, it's not far off. Everything worked, it was just one thing or another. This could have happened last year.''

Miller covered the Sonnenwiese course in a two-run combined time of 1 minute, 34.60 seconds Sunday, finishing 0.95 seconds ahead of Finland's Kalle Palander. The win also boosted Miller to third in the overall standings. Though Miller always contended he didn't feel any pressure to win, he was visibly emotional as he looked up to see his name light up the top spot of the scoreboard, motionless for several seconds before lightly punching his fists and poles into the air.

After the race, Miller stood on the podium for the national anthem, then opened a bottle of Austrian sparkling wine and laughed as he sprayed it on himself before drinking a few sips.

``I just pushed the limits of the sport. I really pushed my limits the second run,'' said Miller, who has four career World Cup slalom wins. ``It's nice to put together two consistent runs without any huge errors to drag me down.''

Miller, 26, has two giant slaloms wins this season, but until now had failed to do the same in the slalom. He scored no points in four slaloms this season, including the first three of the season. His only podium finishes were a second place in Adelboden last weekend and third in a race in Chamonix.

``It's true that since I made the latest development in my skis I've been feeling much more consistent,'' Miller said. ``Since then, I've been in the top-five in every slalom except Wengen, where I crashed. There have been spurts of great skiing, which keep me going.''

Miller was always confident he would recapture his winning ways in slalom. After breaking onto the scene in 1999 with two fourth-place slalom finishes, Miller went on a 17-race drought, shut out over 33 months. But he returned to form suddenly, finishing 26th and second in a doubleheader in Aspen in November 2001.

Sunday's victory was important for Miller in more ways than one. Added to an eighth-place finish in Saturday's downhill, the victory in the slalom meant Miller walked away with 130 points over the weekend, closing the gap on the skiers ahead of him in the chase for the overall World Cup title. Click the links below for full results.