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Raich Wins Giant Slalom; Miller 0-For-4

February 20, 2006



SESTRIERE, Italy (AP Press Release)—Bode Miller is now 0-for-4 at the Turin Games _ and all he's got left is his weakest event. Miller, who came to the Olympics as a medal contender in virtually all five Alpine events, continued his run of mediocrity Monday in the giant slalom, finishing in a tie for sixth.

The gold medal went to Benjamin Raich of Austria, whose time for the two runs was 2 minutes, 35.00 seconds. Joel Chenal of France won silver in 2:35.07, and Austria's Hermann Maier won bronze.

Miller's time was 2:36.06. He almost fell in the middle of the first run and was 12th-fastest, and despite an excellent second run, he couldn't make up enough time to get back into contention. He finished tied with Norwegian Aksel Lund Svindal.

Miller, whose last chance is Saturday's slalom, wasn't apologizing to anyon.

"One of the good things about my career is I have such extensive knowledge, so I always go as hard as I can, Miller told The Associated Press. "Some guys can go 70-80 percent and get results, but I wouldn't do that.

"If things went well, I could be sitting on four medals, maybe all of them gold.

Miller's best finish so far is fifth, in the downhill. He failed to finish the combined event, and skied off the course in the super-G. His only remaining race is the slalom.

"He hasn't had the confidence he usually has, said Miller's father, Woody.

Raich's gold medal ended his own 10-day struggle at the Olympics. He won the last two World Cup giant slalom races before the games but was only fifth after the opening leg. Then he vaulted onto the top step of the podium with a brilliant second effort.

Raich once was known as a choker but earned the nickname "Mr. Consistency last season by finishing all 38 races he entered. He's been a more up-and-down this season, however.

Raich, who has eight career World Cup giant slalom wins, is the reigning World Cup champion in the discipline and the silver medalist in the giant slalom at the world championships in Bormio last winter.

The Austrian failed until now to earn an Olympic downhill berth, straddling a gate in the second leg of the combined when he was seconds from victory and placing only 21st in the super-G.[pagebreak]"I am speechless, overjoyed. This makes me extremely happy, Raich said. "The Olympic victory was my greatest goal.

"The failure in the combination and in the super-G did not affect me in any way, because I do not have to prove to anybody anymore that I know ski racing.

Miller, the giant slalom silver medalist at Salt Lake City four years ago, lost the race in the first run, when he said he ``crushed a rock'' and lost his edge. He was on pace and in contention until catching his hand on a gate and then lifting too high off a bump.

"Second run, there were three mistakes that were legit, Miller said. "I got low before the roll onto the flat, (the second mistake) coming off the main pitch and a bobble down at the very bottom.

"I took a significant risk in the second run.

The second run had been set by U.S. coach Mike Morin under rules that rotate the job among coaches from the different nations entered. Morin had set a tight and technical course to suit Miller.

The other top Americans fared even worse than Miller: Daron Rahlves and Ted Ligety could not finish the first run after missing gates in its steep midsection. Rahlves, considered a multi-race threat in his final Olympics, will leave the Italian Alps empty-handed.

"It's hard to swallow, knowing this is the last time I'll be racing in an event like this, Rahlves said. "Three times in the Olympics and I haven't medaled before.

Ligety, himself a surprise gold medal winner in the combined, still has Saturday's slalom to go.

"There is fresh snow on top of the ice, it makes it a little inconsistent, Ligety said. "It was hard to find an edge. I just couldn't make it with the risks I was having to take.

Young Francois Bourque of Canada, who stunned the deep, experienced field by posting the fastest time in the first leg, dropped to fourth, 0.92 back, after a conservative second trip down the hardy, icy Sises course. Fredrik Nyberg of Sweden was fifth.

Copyright © 2006 The Associated Press

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