Rocca wins slalom; Miller loses overall lead
KRANJSKA GORA, Slovenia – Italian Giorgio Rocca won his third slalom of the season, and American Bode Miller lost the World Cup overall points lead after failing to qualify for the second heat Thursday.Miller was subsequently fined $762 for refusing to take a boot test. He was randomly selected after the first run to take the test – which checks whether the height of the base of the boot is permissible.Rocca won after Austrian Benjamin Raich, the leader following the first run, missed a gate on the second.Reigning overall champion Miller ran into a gate and then some bumps to finish 54th in the first heat. Norwegian Aksel Lund Svindal now leads the overall standings with 450 points. Miller has 442 and Raich 430.Miller had fallen in his last two races – both giant slaloms. He called the test illogical, saying he had already taken off the boots by the time he was told to undergo the test, and could have adjusted the height by then if he wanted.”It’s really typical,” Miller said of the FIS’s equipment rules. “With drug testing it’s the same way.”Rocca has won all three slaloms this season, making him the discipline favorite for the Winter Olympics in Turin, Italy.”I think the pressure is building,” he said. “From people in Italy, the pressure is a lot. I am in good form now, but there is still time.”Rocca has won twice this season after trailing Olympic bronze medalist Raich following the first heat.”I don’t know if I could have won those races if Raich finished,” Rocca said.The victory was the eighth for Rocca – all in the slalom.He was timed in 1 minute, 35.98 seconds on the steep Kranjska Gora slope. Canadian Thomas Grandi was second in 1:36.62. American Ted Ligety was third in 1:36.65.Austrian Raich, starting last as the first-run leader, was .76 seconds ahead of Rocca’s time when he missed a gate halfway through his run. That cost him the chance to pass Miller in the overall standings.Rocca leads the slalom standings with 200 points, 40 more than Ted Ligety and 70 ahead of Grandi.Paerson wins second straight slalomSPINDLERUV MLYN, Czech Republic – World Cup overall champion Anja Paerson overcame poor track conditions Thursday and skied to her second consecutive slalom victory.On a course set up by her father, Andrers, Paerson had the best time on the first run. The Swede’s second run, set by a French coach, was slightly slower down the bumpy and rough Cerna course.Paerson won with a combined time of 1 minute, 38.49 seconds. She exulted in her 0.49 edge over rival Janica Kostelic of Croatia, who won Wednesday’s giant slalom.”Always when my father sets the course I feel very comfortable and I know rhythm,” said Paerson, who performed her trademark victory bellyflop on the snow in the finish area.Kostelic performed a series of cartwheels after the last racer finished Wednesday, making her a giant slalom winner for the first time.”Yesterday it was hard to be fine when Janica won, but I was happy for her to finally win a World Cup GS, because I know it was agony for her and something she wanted a long time,” Paerson said. “Today it’s my turn.”Marlies Schild was third Thursday, 1.27 seconds back, for her second podium finish in as many days.Paerson won the only other slalom race this season – at Aspen, Colo., on Dec. 11. She leads the discipline standings with 200 points, 40 more than Kostelic. Kathrin Zettel of Austria is third with 105 points.Paerson, who is only third in the overall standings and lost the giant slalom points lead to Kostelic on Wednesday, said retaining the slalom lead was important.”It matters. The red bib always matters,” she said. “It gives me self-confidence and more strength at the start. I hope I can keep having the red bib. It’s motivating on the World Cup.”Kostelic, the Olympic and world slalom champion, hugged Paerson in the finish. They are very relieved to be taking a break.”I think both me and Janica are happy to go home. We’re so tired, so we were celebrating – it’s Christmas,” Paerson said. “At the start we were saying, ‘Imagine just 30 minutes until we have a day off.'”We were fighting hard. These two days were difficult with the snow conditions. I needed a lot of energy for these races.”Conditions were tough at the resort, site of a World Cup event for the first time. After three feet of snow, heavy machinery broke through the course surface, making it choppy and uneven.Julia Mancuso was the top American with ninth-place finish. Skiing with substitute boots after leaving her regular pair at a hotel in Canada earlier this month, Mancuso was 25th following the opening leg. But she had the fastest second run, covering the course in 50.10 seconds to climb 16 spots.American Kristina Koznick was 10th. Teammate Resi Stiegler, returning from a shin injury, finished 13th. Lindsey Kildow was 14th and Kaylin Richardson 17th.Austrian Michaela Dorfmeister leads the overall standings with 502 points. Kostelic is with 492 and Paerson third with 440.
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