March 11, 2005
LENZERHEIDE, Switzerland (AP by Erica Bulman)--Bode Miller needed a top finish. He needed his Austrian rivals to have a bad day. He got both Friday _ and now stands on the verge of becoming the first American to win the overall World Cup title in 22 years.
Miller won the super giant slalom by tying fellow American Daron Rahlves, capturing the season title in the discipline and opening an almost insurmountable lead over Austria's Benjamin Raich in the overall standings.
``Things worked out perfectly,'' Miller said after becoming the first American to win the super-G World Cup crown since the discipline was introduced in 1986.
The victory stretched Miller's overall World Cup lead to 184 points over Raich, who finished 11th Friday. The American now leads 1,528 points to 1,344.
The only way Miller can lose the overall title is if Raich wins the remaining two races _ Saturday's giant slalom and Sunday's slalom _ and the American finishes outside the top 15 both days.
``There are still 200 points up for grabs. It's never over until it's mathematically over,'' Miller said. ``The chances now are better than this morning for me to win. But Benni is capable of winning both the GS and slalom. So I want to go out and win the GS tomorrow, defend my title and hopefully win the overall.''
Miller would become the first American to win an overall title since Phil Mahre and Tamara McKinney in 1983.
Miller started the day 54 points behind Hermann Maier in the super-G standings.
Miller and Rahlves finished in an identical time of 1 minute, 10.24 seconds to take the lead and put the pressure on Maier. The last skier down, Maier needed a top-three finish to lock up the super-G title. But the ``Herminator'' managed only ninth.
``Hermann didn't do so well,'' Miller said. ``Daron finally got his first win of the season. I got 100 points, too. I won the super-G title. I extended my lead in the overall. It all went our way. I couldn't have asked for a better day.''
Among the women, Austria's Michaela Dorfmeister won the final super giant slalom of the season, capturing the World Cup title in the discipline. Sweden's Anja Paerson extended her lead over Croatia's Janica Kostelic in the overall standings with a third-place finish.
Dorfmeister, the 2001-02 overall winner, was timed in 1 minute, 12.38 seconds and was 0.30 seconds ahead of another Austrian, Marlies Schild. Lindsey Kildow of the United States was fourth.
Even finishing behind Rahlves by 0.01 seconds would have cost Miller the super-G title, with a second place giving him 20 points less. Instead, Miller beat Maier 470-453 in the final discipline standings.
``Last year I didn't even finish in the top 10 in super-G,'' said Miller, who posted his first career wins this season in downhill and super-G. ``This year I have the globe. To win this globe is a big step for me.''
Maier, last year's overall champion, took the result in stride.
``I've been lacking intensity,'' he said. ``But I have 14 crystal globes. Bode only just got his second this season. There's a big difference, so I don't care.''
This season, Rahlves repeatedly found himself finishing behind his celebrated teammate. He was sixth in Thursday's downhill, with Miller second behind Norway's Lasse Kjus.
``I don't like to be second _ it doesn't matter who is ahead of me,'' Rahlves said. ``I was going all out. I wanted this win. Bode needed as many points as he could get. There are no free points and I wasn't going to hold back for Bode. But this was perfect. We both got what we wanted _ needed _ today.''
Rahlves concludes his season Saturday in the giant slalom.
Miller began his career as a technical specialist but has transformed himself into one of the top speed skiers on the circuit. He won the season-opening super-G in Lake Louise, Alberta, in November and finished second in another super-G a few days later in Beaver Creek, Colo. He was in the top five of every super-G.
Despite winning two golds at last month's world championships, Miller's World Cup lead shrank from 400 points over Raich in December to just 52 entering the World Cup finals. His previous World Cup win came in a night slalom Dec. 13 in Sestriere, Italy.
Copyright à‚© 2005 The Associated Press