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Overall Worldcup Title

Bode Miller on Top

MARCH 12, 2005
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Juliann Fritz, jfritz@ussa.org

BODE MILLER SLAMS THE DOOR ON RAICH, WINS OVERALL TITLE
Miller becomes first American to win overall since 1983

LENZERHEIDE, Switzerland (March 12) - Bode Miller (Franconia, NH), looking to defend his World Cup giant slalom title and needing to finish 14th to clinch the overall crown, finished second Saturday in GS and became the first American to win a World Cup overall title in alpine since 1983.

Outdoor Life Network will have coverage of all the action from World Cup Finals Sunday at 3-5 p.m. ET, a special two-hour show including all races and awards presentation. OLN's "Winter Revolution" show Wednesday night at 10 ET (9 MT) will have in-depth Finals cover, too.

Austrian Stephan Goergl had the fastest time on each run Saturday as he won the GS at World Cup Finals in 2:10.51 and Miller, one day after his historic tie with teammate Daron Rahlves (Sugar Bowl, CA) in the super G, was second in 2:11.19. That enabled him to match the 1983 feat when Phil Mahre and Tamara McKinney were overall champions.

"It's done," Miller said of his title quest. "It's over."

He wasn't stressing before the race, he said. "I was already up by 184 points, so I wasn't overly concerned. I'm bummed out, though, that I didn't win the GS title" for a second straight season.
 
With one race left, Miller is 204 points ahead of Austrian Benni Raich, who finished third and clinched the 2005 giant slalom title. Raich, who needed to win both races this weekend - the GS and Sunday's slalom - and hope Miller didn't finish 15th or better either day, joined Austrian Ski Team coaches and program officials in congratulating Miller in the sunny finish area.

Mixed emotions - high for the overall, bummed about GS
"It's a little disappointing [losing the GS title], but I skied well," Miller said. "Today, a lot of it was not out of my control, but on these skis - since I blew up my other good ones [in a race crash], it's challenging for me to find speed on flatter sections."

Said Men's SL/GS Head Coach Mike Morin, "It's done. There's no pressure for [Sunday's slalom]. That can just be fun...but this one was special. To see Benni Raich lay down the kind of second run he had, as he can do - challenging everyone to get up to the next level...and then Bode answers him and does it, was incredible.

"Everyone was pretty much awestruck by Benni's performance. It was great, no question, and then Bode came right back at him, not only to seal the overall but to defend his GS title, too.

"It was not only exciting," Morin said, "but very dramatic, very pressure-packed as everyone anticipated what was going to unwind, what would happen." 

In the shootout for the GS title, Raich came in three points ahead of Miller. But Miller got the big prize, the overall title.

Coach: Rahlves, Schlopy skied well, too
"It was a great duel," Morin said, "but we also had some more great skiing from Daron in GS - he's so solid now, so confident...and Schlopy once again was in there. I've said many times, our GS team is the best team we have right now, and to put three guys into the top 15 at Finals, and on a day when one of our top guys [Spencer] doesn't finish, shows how strong they are."

Miller, a Boston Red Sox fan, drew a brief comparison between their World Series win last fall, ending an 86-year drought and his overall championship ending a 22-year dry spell for U.S. skiers. And with the New England Patriots winning their third Super Bowl in four years - a predawn victory he watched at USA House in Bormio, Italy, during World Championships, he said, "It's been a good season for us in New England.

"Like it was with the Red Sox, it was becoming embarrassing [since '83]. It was more than just a sports record, more like some kind of curse." At the same, the weeping and gnashing of teeth that accompanied Boston's annual baseball fizzle "didn't get that way with skiing," he said, "because no one cares about skiing in the U.S."

While some observers may have felt he was running low on energy after failing to score a point in two races in Kranjska Gora, Slovenia, two weeks earlier - especially with Raich winning and placing third that weekend, Miller said he wasn't. And he didn't feel any special pick-me-up or energy transfusion coming into World Cup Finals where he performed so well with a co-victory and two second-place results in three races to clinch the overall title.

"I didn't feel there was any monkey on my back," he said, referring to his missed opportunities to capture the overall crown in previous seasons. "I've been racing solid the whole time, although I had a couple of mistakes here and there, but I felt pretty comfortable coming into this series...

"I had great energy in Kranjska Gora ...crashes have nothing to do with energy ...mistakes don't have energy ...But that was the story of my season. When I was making big mistakes, I was winning races and being on the podium," he said.

He wasn't concerned whether people felt he was sluggish or perhaps tired after three straight seasons of skiing every race. "I don't pay that much attention to what anyone says at all. I think it's humorous, only one example in our culture where people make assumptions on very limited information," he added.

And what will he do with his second globe of the week (after taking the super G title with Friday's co-victory with Rahlves, pushing him past Hermann Maier of Austria) and third in his career? "Bring it back home. My GS globe from last year's still in the box; it's more of an emotional victory for me. The globe's a great trophy," Miller said. "Maybe someday it'll go up."

(Miller, who repeatedly has said he's more concerned with "the process" of skiing well than with victories, won the GS title in 2004 when, after he had skied off course ast World Cup Finals in Sestriere, Italy, the final giant slalom was canceled because of unsafe conditions during a snowstorm that created poor visibility and soft underfooting. The leader when that race was scrubbed? Daron Rahlves.)

Miller's win came about an hour after Sarah Schleper (Vail, CO) had the fastest time on each run and won her first World Cup, taking the women's slalom with two other Americans in the top 10.

Advice pays off for Schleper
"With Schlep today, it was awesome," said Miller, who watched parts of the race. "I've given her pep talks all season" and gave her encouraging comments this past week in Lenzerheide where the U.S. men are staying in separate hotels. He explained that the snow isn't always injected for the women, as it is for the men, to make it firm - but local organizers injected the course and she seized her opportunity.

"She's better on firmer snow; she was totally excited about it. We talked the other day about it. I talked to her between runs and told her to go for it, to kill it," Miller said.

"It's incredible - just great for Bode and for Sarah, too; it's never easy when you're standing in the start gate after leading that first, but she did it. Today's so exciting," said U.S. Alpine Director Jesse Hunt, who was Ski Racing Junior of the Year in 1983 while growing up in Stowe, Vt. "You knew Benni wasn't going to give the thing away. He put down a helluva second run and Bode came right back and answered it. He didn't back off, either.

"And now we can all breathe a sigh of relief," he added, laughing.

Rahlves, who added GS this season - including the bronze medal in giant slalom at the World Championships - while emerging as a solid three-event racer, was sixth (2:11.96). Erik Schlopy (Park City, UT) was 14th and Dane Spencer (Boise, ID) didn't finish his second run.

Miller led from start to finish of the season, matching a feat last accomplished by Ingemar Stenmark in 1978. He has skied in every World Cup race over the last three seasons; the last time Miller - a Carrabassett Valley (ME) Academy graduate - did not enter a World Cup race was March 6, 2002 when he skipped the downhill at Finals in Lillehammer, Norway; his streak, including Saturday, is at 113 straight races.

After falling short in the final weeks during the last two seasons, Miller looked shaky in recent weeks ago. He failed to finish both races in Kranjska Gora, Slovenia, two weeks ago but rebounded last week in Kvitfjell, the speed site north of Lillehammer, by finishing fourth in DH and fifth in super G. He came to Lenzerheide 52 points ahead of Raich...and rediscovered his racing touch.

Ligety ready for big stage at Finals
Miller was second Thursday in downhill and then, the next-to-last, racer, tore down the new Silvano Beltrametti course, surviving a mistake at the bottom to deadlock Rahlves in the super G. It was Rahlves' first triumph of the season but Miller's seventh; the U.S. record for men is eight, held by Phil Mahre, from the 1982 season, while Tamara McKinney holds the women's mark seven, from '83.

The men's season concludes Sunday with slalom. First run is at 3 a.m. ET, second run at 5:30 a.m. ET. First run of the women's GS is at 4 a.m. ET with second run at 6:30 a.m. ET.

"There's a tremendous buzz around town about Ted [Ligety - Park City, UT] and how fast he is, what he can do, and he'll get a chance to show everyone," Morin said. "He's ready...and we'll all just enjoy the day.

"This is a big sigh for everybody - not just for Bode, to get the big one, but a sigh for the coaches, the service staff, the administration...and the other athletes. One race to go and then on to nationals."

The U.S. Alpine Championships are March 29-April 5 at Mammoth Mountain, Calif.

MEN'S ALPINE WORLD CUP
World Cup Finals
Lenzerheide, SUI - March 12, 2005
Men's Giant Slalom

1. Stephan Goergl, Austria, 2:10.51
2. Bode Miller, Franconia, N.H., 2:11.19
3. Benni Raich, Austria, 2:11.31
4. Hermann Maier, Austria, 2:11.35
5. Fredrik Nyberg, Sweden, 2:11.82
 -
6. Daron Rahlves, Sugar Bowl, Calif., 2:11.96
14. Erik Schlopy, Park City, Utah, 2:13.76
 -
DNF-2:
Dane Spencer, Boise, Idaho