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Miller, Walchhofer Skip Combined Practice

February 13, 2006

SESTRIERE, Italy (AP by Erica Bulman)—With several stars sitting out, Aksel Lund Svindal of Norway was fastest by more than a second Monday in downhill training for the Alpine men's combined.

Defending Olympic champion Kjetil Andre Aamodt of Norway, Bode Miller of the United States and Michael Walchhofer of Austria skipped the practice session ahead of Tuesday's race, which includes a daytime downhill leg and two slalom runs in the evening.

Skiers who didn't participate will have later starting positions for the downhill portion. That's usually considered unfavorable because the course gets choppier, but Antoine Deneriaz of France won gold in Sunday's downhill after starting 30th. Deneriaz is not competing in the combined.

Svindal, silver medalist in the combined at the 2005 Alpine World Championships, completed his training run in 1 minute, 38.01 seconds on a course that had been shortened from Sunday's downhill medal race. Another Norwegian, 1994 Olympic combined champion Lasse Kjus, was next in 1:39.03, followed by Patrick Staudacher of Italy in 1:39.07.

Benjamin Raich of Austria, the reigning world champion and 2002 Olympic bronze medalist in the combined, took it easy Monday and finished 25th in 1:41.47.

"I found a clean line and it was a clean run, so I am very satisfied with my training today, said Raich, who won three of the four combined races this World Cup season.

Raich topped the World Cup standings in the combined, while Miller and Walchhofer, who won downhill silver Sunday, tied for second.

Aamodt, whose seven Olympic medals are the most in Alpine skiing, rested his aching left knee after landing awkwardly on a jump while finishing fourth in the downhill. A team official said Monday that nothing was broken or torn in the knee, but that it was swollen and Aamodt might skip the medal race and focus on recuperating for the super-G on Saturday.

Americans Scott Macartney and Steven Nyman also were absent.

Ted Ligety was the only U.S. skier to practice Monday, finishing 13th in 1:40.45.

"I have a good chance if I'm really close to those guys in the downhill, because I'm confident I can beat them in the slalom portion, Ligety said.

Copyright © 2006 The Associated Press

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