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Bode Miller wins World Cup Opening at Sölden; Austrians miss podium again

Bode Miller wins World Cup Opening at Sölden; Austrians miss podium againFor the second year in a row, Bode Miller has won the first World Cup race of the season. Miller trounced the world’s best skiers at Sölden, leaving host-nation Austria without a single podium over a sunny weekend of men’s and women’s giant slalom.

“If I’m ahead with those kinds of mistakes and those kinds of tactics, it couldn’t be better,” said Miller in the finish area. “My equipment is better than it ever has been, my technique is better than it ever has been and my fitness is better than it ever has been.”

For the second day in a row, no Austrians landed on the podium — a rare phenomenon, and one that will surely be noticed by Austrian newspapers and the team front office. Italy’s Massimiliano Blardone was second, and Kalle Palander finished third. But Miller’s decisive 1.17-second lead at the end of the day made him the story.

Return to snow

Erik Schlopy’s comeback was a sweet one. Although a 17th-place finish doesn’t seem impressive, it delighted Schlopy and his coaches. Less than a year ago, Schlopy destroyed his knee in a giant slalom crash. “You never know with an ACL, especially with an older athlete like Erik,” said his coach Mike Morin. “To see him come back the way he did today, especially in the first run…we’re going to see Erik in the top 10 a lot this winter.”

Another comeback performance came from Ivica Kostelic of Croatia, who blew his knee out in late January at Schladming, and failed to qualify for a second run today. “I would say it’s rusty,” said Kostelic after the first run. “I’m always holding back a little bit because of the pain in the tendon.”

The equipment switch

Miller’s summertime switch from Rossignol to Atomic skis has been one of the big stories this year at Sölden — a race with an exhibition atmosphere high on a Tyrolean glacier. Rossignol’s race director Francois Sedan stood in the finish area after the race, shaking his head in amazement at the athlete he had lost. “Bode is very strong,” said Sedan with an ironic grin. “Even with bad skis he is fast.”

But Miller thinks highly of his new set-up, especially on the wavy ice at Sölden. “It’s easier to keep pressure constant,” Miller says. “The pressure point is right under my foot now.”

Miller pointed out that Rossignol was one of the fastest skis on the hill, with seven skiers qualifying for the second run (the top 30 make the cut).

Running home for the election

Miller made it look easy. He hung out in the pressroom between runs, shooting the breeze with Austrian reporters. He listened to his i-Pod at the start, and signed autographs for the kids that mob him anywhere he goes.

He also talked about voting in the upcoming American presidential election. Miller has told reporters that he is going home to New Hampshire (after a victory party and a photo shoot) to vote for John Kerry.

“Apparently there was something I was going to do with John Kerry — maybe an event or something,” said Miller,. “But it doesn’t look like it’s going to work out for either one of us. My season’s started and that’s my number one priority right now. I think he should be able to win on his own.”

Pressed further on why he endorses Kerry, Miller was happy to reply. “I think he’s just better than Bush,” said Miller. “In my lifetime I’ve never seen a politician that I’m really proud of. That I really feel is on point, or really just addressed the issues that are bigger than, you know, trifles that everybody talks about. But I think you have to choose the lesser of two evils at this point. That’s sort of all there is to it.”

Austria misses podium this weekend

Hermann Maier was perhaps the only skier on the hill who got bigger celebration than Miller — at least at the start of the day. By the end of the day he was sour. “It would be very hard for me, maybe inpossible, to be winning again the giant slalom, to be as good as in former times,” he said. “I don’t have much of a chance to win a GS in the future.”

Men’s head coach for Austria, Toni Giger, told the Associated Press that his racers had been training speed events recently, and so missing the podium was to be expected. “It will be the same situation as last year. The next races Austria will be on the podium again.”

Giger also told the AP reporter that he wouldn’t advise his skiers to emulate Miller’s unique stance and unconventional approach to line and tactics. “Bode Miller has a style of his own and it would be a mistake for some of the other guys to imitate him,” said Giger.

But Karl Schranz, one of Austria’s all-time greatest racers, thinks otherwise. In an interview that will be posted at this website later this week, Schranz said “if Miller keeps winning, the young Austrian races are going to start to ski like he does, like a snowboarder.”

World Cup Opening

Men’s Giant Slalom

Solden, Austria

Oct. 24, 2004


1. Bode Miller, USA 2:16.44

2. Massimiliano Blardone, ITA 2:17.61

3. Kalle Palander, FIN 2:17.92

4. Joel Chenal, FRA 2:17.95

5. Hans Knauss, AUT 2:18.05

6. Rainer Schoenfelder, AUT 2:18.16

7. Thomas Grandi, CAN 2:18.17

8. Fredrik Nyberg, SWE 2:18.27

9. Didier Cuche, SUI 2:18.29

9. Andreas Schifferer, AUT 2:18.29

11. Arnold Rieder, ITA 2:18.31

12. Alberto Schieppati, ITA 2:18.35

13. Benjamin Raich, AUT 2:18.52

14. Alexander Ploner, ITA 2:18.60

15. Hermann Maier, AUT 2:18.64

16. Michael Walchhofer, AUT 2:18.72

17. Erik Schlopy, USA 2:18.74

18. Gauthier DeTessieres, FRA 2:18.96

19. Frederic Covili, FRA 2:19.00

20. Ambrosi Hoffmann, SUI 2:19.01

21. Marco Buechel, LIE 2:19.02

22. Didier Defago, SUI 2:19.09

23. Kjetil Jansrud, NOR 2:19.16

24. Akira Sasaki, JPN 2:19.27

25. Dane Spencer, USA 2:19.28

26. Davide Simoncelli, ITA 2:19.35

27. Giorgio Rocca, ITA 2:19.39

28. Stephan Goergl, AUT 2:19.66

29. Sami Uotila, FIN 2:19.84

30. Aksel Lund Svindal, NOR 2:19.95

other North Americans:

DNF 1st: Daron Rahlves, Jake Zamansky, USA.

DNQ 2nd: Francois Bourque, Jean-Philippe Roy, Julien Cousineau, CAN; James Cochran, USA.

THE SCOOP

By Hank McKee

Equipment, Men’s Giant Slalom, Solden, Austria, Oct. 24, 2004 Skier, skis/boots/bindings 1. Miller, Atomic/Atomic/Atomic 2. Blardone, Salomon/Salomon/Salomon 3. Palander, Atomic/Atomic/Atomic 4. Chenal, Dynastar/Lange/Look 5. Knauss, Fischer/Lange/Atomic 6. Schoenfelder, Fischer/Nordica/Tyrolia 7. Grandi, Rossignol/Rossignol/Rossignol 8. Nyberg. Fischer/Salomon/Salomon 9. Cuche, Atomic/Lange/Atomic 9. Schifferer, Rossignol/Lange/Rossignol

It is the first men’s race of the 2005 World Cup season. … It is the 13th career win for Bode Miller… the 143rd for the U.S. … It is the second straight season Miller has won the opener at Solden. … It is a huge margin of victory at 1.17 seconds. … Of his 13 wins, Miller now has seven GS wins, two in combined and four in slalom. … Martina Ertl is the only other person to win Solden twice (’00 and ’03).

It is the third time in his career Massimiliano Blardone has finished second in a World Cup race, the last coming at Adelboden 2/7/04. … He has never won. … It is the best finish by an Italian at Solden, matching Deborah Compagnoni’s ’96 result. … It is the 15th career podium for Kalle Palander, his fourth in GS against 11 slalom podiums. …

Thomas Grandi, in seventh, scores the best result at Solden ever by a Canadian man. … It is t
he seventh best result of his career. … It is Erik Schlopy’s best finish at Solden, bettering a 22nd from ’01, his only other scoring finish at the site. … It is the 16th scoring finish for Dane Spencer and his best, by one placing, at Solden in two attempts.

Austria jumped out in front of the Nations Cup 279-204 for Italy with the U.S. third at 194. … Austria leads the men’s standings 168-153 over Italy with the U.S. third at 120.

All 30 qualifiers complete the second run.

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