Tahoe City Skier Third at World Cup Race

By: AP Email
By: AP Email

Bode Miller's ankle injury is hurting his skiing and his head.

The American says his injured left ankle is slowly wrecking the
defense of his World Cup title and pursuit of gold medals at the
world championships next month.

Worse, it is killing the fun of skiing for the 31-year-old star
from Francona, N.H., who has long been known for his carefree
approach.

"I have both physical and mental pain when I ski right now,"
said Miller, whose second place in the classic Lauberhorn downhill
Saturday stretched his season-long winless streak to 19 races.

"I try as hard as I can, but if I'm not 100 percent physically
it makes it tough for me," he said at the post-race news
conference in a converted Wengen schoolroom.

From his desk on a raised plinth, Miller patiently answered
questions, pausing while a helicopter that traditionally ferries
the top three finishers to the makeshift media center landed below
the third-floor window, bringing race winner Didier Defago of
Switzerland to the session.

"Every day my ankle hurts," Miller said. "I'm not able to ski
at the level that I want to ski at. That's little bit distressing
over a long period of time. Especially when you don't have the
results and you have to deal with all the other stuff that comes
along with that."

The other stuff includes regular reminders that having only
three runner-up finishes so far this season is below the
expectations for a skier whose 31 career World Cup wins - including
six last year - are a U.S. record.

"Really, the results have been pretty poor," Miller said.

Wengen, where he had won the past two Lauberhorn downhills,
seemed an ideal spot to regain his touch.

Miller skied after Defago down the 2.8-mile course, but was
around two-tenths of a second behind at every time split.

He described the effect of his ankle injury, sustained when
clipping a gate with his left ski in a Dec. 5 downhill at Beaver
Creek, Colo., saying that when his knee presses forward, it pulls
the ankle apart inside the rigid boot.

"It's only in the ski boot that it hurts," Miller said. "It's
a little bit frustrating on these downhills where there's a lot of
really hard left turns. I just don't really have the power to do
what I want to do."

Though Defago was a hugely popular home winner for the record
Lauberhorn crowd of 29,000, fans in the finish area were silent
when Miller was the only man on the course, allowing his run to be
shown in full on a giant screen.

Miller finished 0.20 seconds behind Defago's time of 2 minutes,
31.98 seconds on the ski circuit's longest and most demanding
course. Marco Sullivan of the United States was third, trailing
Defago by 0.39.

Sullivan said he wanted to reach a downhill podium alongside
Miller, who skies independently of the official U.S. team.

"It's really special," the 28-year-old from Tahoe City, Calif.
said. "Daron (Rahlves) and Bode used to always podium together."

The last time two American men shared a podium after a downhill
was Dec. 2006, when Miller and Steven Nyman finished 1-3 at Beaver
Creek.

Sullivan was watched on course by his father, Paul, who traveled
from California, and his sister Chelsea Robinson and brother-in-law
Trevor, from Jackson Hole, Wyo.

"I think that was a little motivation to ski fast," Sullivan
said. "My dad has never been to Europe. He got to see me and it
was a special day."

Sasha Rearick, head coach of the U.S. team, said Sullivan skied
the top of the course "like an absolute stud."

The nine-man American challenge had its rough moments. Scott
Macartney of Redmond, Wash., crashed out hard in the top half,
while TJ Lanning of Park City, Utah, and Nyman of Provo, Utah, fell
at the S-bend in sight of the finish line.

Andrew Weibrecht of Lake Placid, N.Y., earned a World Cup point
in 30th, trailing by 3.99.

Austria's Michael Walchhofer retained the lead in the downhill
standings despite finishing 26th, while Miller climbed from sixth
to second. Sullivan rose to 10th.

Benjamin Raich of Austria, who did not race Saturday, retains
the lead in the overall standings, 593-536 on Jean-Baptiste Grange
of France. The two will be among the favorites for a two-run slalom
Sunday.

While Miller won't be favored, he'll race.

"We've come up with a new system in slalom which hopefully
makes it less likely to get hurt again," he said. "I'm pretty
stubborn. I pretty much go out there and keep going."


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