YONGPYONG, South Korea (March 2) -- Bode Miller (Franconia, NH) survived an open boot buckle Sunday for only his second top-10 slalom of the World Cup season, finishing sixth to cut Austrian Stephan Eberharter's overall World Cup lead to just 93 points, nearly halving the margin coming into the Korean race weekend. Six races remain and two are slaloms, which Eberharter normally doesn't race.
Kalle Palander of Finland picked up the win - his third consecutive World Cup SL victory - and some huge ground on World Cup slalom leader Ivica Kostelic of Croatia, who was 15th. With two slaloms left, Kostelic, the new world champion, is 16 points ahead of the Finn, the 1999 world champ but never a World Cup winner until mid-January.
Outdoor Life Network will broadcast coverage of the slalom today at 4 p.m. EST with World Cup highlights Thursday at 10 p.m. EST.
Palander, who took the first-run lead, held on to win in 1:42.12 with Giorgio Rocca of Italy, SL bronze medalist at the World Championships, second at 1:42.65.
Miller said he somehow smacked one of his ski boots with a pole during his second run, opening a buckle and forcing him to ski carefully - pushing it where he could but being careful not to go out. "I'm glad to have made it," Miller said.
"It was another brutal fight," he added. "Palander is in a world of his own...
"I was hoping for more today but at the end of the day I must be lucky to have made it to the finish line. I skied really well in the upper part of the second run but then I had problems with my boot. I was afraid to ski out" as he had done at the Chevy Truck America's Opening in Park City, UT, last November as the World Cup moved into its continuous racing phase.
"I took great risks and it was sometimes really close."
The finish gave Miller a strong weekend, moving from 185 points back of Eberharter, who does not ski slalom except in rare instances, to just 93. He had been fourth after the first run Sunday, with Erik Schlopy (Park City, UT) eighth. Schlopy missed a gate and hiked in the second run. Chip Knight (Stowe, VT) was 24th after the first run and went out in the second - his first slalom DNF of the season.
Tom Rothrock (Cashmere, WA) was again a second-run-wonder! Rothrock was 29th after the first run, but took advantage of his early start to hammer the second-fastest second run - similar to his World Championships slalom where he led the second run.
The circuit now heads to Shigakogen, Japan, for a GS and slalom on the 1998 Olympic venue Friday and Saturday, before heading to the World Cup Finals in Lillehammer, Norway, where Eberharter and Miller, who hasn't missed a race all season, are expected to battle to the wire for the overall title.
Miller, who's also second to Swiss Michael Von Gruenigen in the GS points race - 97 points back with two giant slaloms remaining, called it "a great battle which is going on for the two Cups and I'm proud to be part of it." Von Gruenigen, who has said he's retiring at the end of the season, is seeking his third World Cup GS crown after winning in 1997 and 2001.
After the Lillehammer races and the end of the World Cup, the U.S. troupe will return to Whiteface Mountain outside Lake Placid, NY, for the Chevy Truck U.S. Alpine Championships, which begin March 20. The championships also will include the popular Return of the Champions, bringing together previous U.S. medalists from Olympics and Worlds plus selected alpine alumni from a specific team for a fun team race and other activities.
FIS ALPINE WORLD CUP
Yongpyong, KOR - March 2
Click for complete results
1. Kalle Pallander, Finland, 1:42.12
2. Giorgio Rocca, Italy, 1:42.65
3. Benjamin Raich, Austria, 1:43.564. Pierrick Bourgeat, France, 1:43.815. Kilian Albrecht, Austria, 1:43.99- 6. Bode Miller, Franconia, NH, 1:44.0813. Tom Rothrock, Cashmere, WA, 1:44.4625. Erik Schlopy, Park City, UT, 1:56.01DNF-2: Chip Knight, Stowe, VT -World Cup StandingsMen's Oveerall (6 races remaining)1. Stephan Eberharter, Austria - 1,153 points2. Miller - 1,0603. Kjetil Andre Aamodt, Norway, 8254. Didier Cuche, Switzerland, 6555. Daron Rahlves, Sugar Bowl, CA, 587 -39. Schlopy, 19850. Marco Sullivan, Squaw Valley, CA, 13652. Knight, 13073T. Rothrock, 7175. Jake Fiala, Frisco, CO, 7099. Scott Macartney, Redmond, WA, 32109T. Thomas Vonn, Newburgh, NY, 24132T. Dane Spencer, Boise, ID, 9 -Men's Slalom World Cup Standings (2 races remaining)1. Ivica Kostelic, Croatia, 4942. Palander, 4783. Raich, 3354. Rainer Schoenfelder, Austria, 3285. Manfred Pranger, Austria, 280 -14. Miller, 14415. Knight, 13025. Schlopy, 7628T. Rothrock, 71