Miller captures second super-G title, Mancuso loses ground in overall race
LENZERHEIDE, Switzerland – Bode Miller is known for abusing his trophies. He’s lost some to thieves and carelessness, smashed one to pieces and even used a gold medal to fix a faulty toilet.This time, Miller says, it will be different.The 29-year-old American clinched his second World Cup super-G title Thursday with a fourth-place finish in the event’s season finale. It is his sole piece of hardware from a trying season, and he promised to not let anything happen to the 7 1/2-pound crystal globe.”The overall they just give it to you in a mesh carry-on bag. That was the problem. It’s weird,” Miller said, pointing to the gray metal case in which his latest trophy was safely ensconced. “But all the discipline titles you get a case for. That one won’t break in there.”On this same mountain two years ago, Miller won his first super-G title as well as the overall crown – Alpine skiing’s most meaningful award. To get the fragile 20-pound, hand-blown trophy back to the United States, Miller had to check it in with his luggage. He recovered it in “a million pieces” inside bubble wrap.
During those glory days, fans also learned with a mix of horror and amusement that Miller lost his combined gold medal from the 2003 worlds after using it to hold up the toilet seat at his old apartment in Austria. His super-G gold from Bormio, Italy, was stolen from his jacket, which he left unattended at a party.Teammate Julia Mancuso, who is more careful with her Olympic giant slalom gold medal, will need to come up big in the weekend’s technical races if she hopes to win her first World Cup globe. She finished seventh in the women’s last super-G Thursday.Mancuso is trying to become the first American woman to win the overall title in almost a quarter century.”I don’t really think there’s a chance to win anymore,” she said. “But I can definitely hang in there.”Miller, already eliminated from the men’s overall, won the super-G on the strength of two midseason victories in the discipline. Norway’s Aksel Lund Svindal won the race, drawing within three points of overall leader Benjamin Raich.”There have been a lot of things said about Bode but he’s an amazing skier,” Svindal said. “He’s run some of the fastest runs ever skied and there’s no reason he can’t get that back.”
Almost immediately after becoming the first U.S. skier in 22 years to win the overall, Miller lost his magic touch. Last season he won just two races, failed to medal at the Turin Olympics and earned the label of Alpine skiing’s bad boy after saying he competed “wasted.””He is still Bode Miller with his good qualities and like everyone he has his faults. But he’s one of the big champions of the winter,” French Olympic downhill champion Antoine Deneriaz saidMiller entered this season hoping to reclaim the overall and break Hermann Maier and Ingemar Stenmark’s record of 13 World Cup victories in a season.”It gives you perspective on how hard it is to win a title,” said John McBride, the U.S. coach Miller pulled out of retirement to work with.Miller’s main handicap this season was the slalom, which also held him back in the combined. Miller, who rose through the ranks as a technical specialist, has completed only two World Cup slaloms in the last 14 months.”We’ve got to figure out how to put points on the board in slalom and combined,” McBride said. “He’s got to figure out how to get to the finish, get the monkey off his back. Though, it’s more like the mountain gorilla.”
Miller certainly looks happier than a year ago, when he repeatedly threatened to quit the tour. This year there was no suggestion of early retirement, or of launching a rival circuit.”I think I probably will race next year,” Miller said.Sweden’s Anja Paerson won the women’s super-G race for her first World Cup victory this season. But Marlies Schild’s third place was more significant – it increased her lead in the overall with her best events to come.Schild has 1,442 points, 70 more than Austrian teammate Nicole Hosp. Mancuso, who trails by 110, could collect big points in Sunday’s giant slalom. First, she needs to outdo herself in Saturday’s slalom, her weakest event and Schild’s strongest.”I’ve been struggling all year in the regular slaloms, but having some really good combined slaloms,” Mancuso said. “So I think it’s just a matter of putting one or two full runs together.”
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