February 3, 2005
BORMIO, Italy (AP by Erica Bulman)--Bode Miller knew he couldn't botch another slalom if he wanted to successfully defend his title in the combined at the world championships. And he didn't _ he blundered in the downhill instead.
The American star lost a ski but drew thunderous cheers as he rode down most of the course on one leg, finally ending up on his rear in a puff of snow.
Austria's Benjamin Raich, second to Miller in the overall standings, captured the gold medal Thursday, completing the morning's downhill run and the two afternoon slalom legs in 3 minutes, 19.10 seconds.
``It was an extra challenge for me in the slalom to try and ski really aggressive,'' Miller said. ``I finally got my skis dialed in over the last few races. So to not have a chance at that is kind of a bummer.''
Aksel Lund Svindal of Norway was second in 3:20.01 after teammate Kjetil-Andre Aamodt was disqualified for straddling a gate. That allowed Giorgio Rocca to move into third and give host Italy a bronze in 3:20.08. The top U.S. finisher was Ted Ligety, 12th place.
Miller's strength in the speed disciplines was evident following his victory in Saturday's super giant slalom, and he seemed more than solid during downhill training.
His miserable slalom record this season _ finishing just once in seven attempts _ caused many to doubt he could get through the two slalom legs. So it was a jolt when just 15 seconds into the downhill he suddenly lost his left ski.
Coming off the second jump, Miller landed deep in his tuck. He hooked his left ski, which bounced hard off the packed surface, the binding releasing on the second impact.
``I landed with a lot of force. I hooked the edge. It was pretty abrupt,'' Miller said. ``At 75 miles an hour, as soon as your ski hits at that angle, there's nothing except maybe luck to keep it on.''
The acrobatic Miller managed to stay upright and began a rollicking one-legged descent _ even dropping into a tuck position on occasion _ to the delight of the crowds in the jammed-packed stands at the finish. But with his tired leg finally giving out, Miller skied off course before dropping onto his rump.
``I decided I'd try to make it down to see if I could still get to ski the combined slalom because obviously two runs on the slalom hill would be great training for me,'' said Miller, looking toward next week's slalom. ``I'd made all the gates at that point. I remember going over rules and stuff in my head.''
``I wasn't competitive at all,'' he added. ``But it was so hard. You're usually used to one kind of wind resistance against you and when your ski isn't on the snow, there's a whole other appendage that's getting wind resistance. I ended up bagging it and then I fell down. I still could've made that gate but at that point I just figured just call it a day.''
Raich showed minimal sympathy for his rival.
``That's not good for him and it's not good for the event, but that's skiing and you have to accept it,'' Raich said.
Miller, the only skier scheduled to race all six races at the worlds _ downhill, super-G, giant slalom, slalom, combined and nation's team event _ will next race in Saturday's downhill, the banner event of the championships.
``Today was bad luck but I'm not one to dwell on things like that. It's over pretty quick,'' Miller said. ``I have another race coming up.''
Copyright © 2005 The Associated Press