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Miller second in downhill at World Cup finals

SPECIAL TO THE DAILY

ARE, Sweden ” Reigning downhill world champion Bode Miller (Bretton Woods, N.H.) returned to World Cup racing Wednesday by finishing second in the last downhill of the season, two-tenths of a second behind Norway’s Axel Lund Svindal as World Cup Finals got under way on the 2007 World Alpine Ski Championships course.

Svindal won in an unofficial 1:42.40 with Miller, who skipped the Far East swing of four races after the Olympics to rest his sore left knee, timed in 1:42.40. Daron Rahlves (Sugar Bowl, Calif.) was seventh with Junior Worlds downhill champ Chris Beckmann (Altamont, N.Y.) 19th while Steve Nyman (Orem, Utah) crashed on the lower portion of the 2.9K track.

Olympic silver medalist Michael Walchhofer of Austria was 11th but clinched his second straight World Cup downhill crown, finishing with 522 points after nine DHs to 491 for teammate Fritz Strobl and 444 for Rahlves in third place. At World Cup Finals, points are awarded only to the top 15 finishers in each race.

“In general, I’m really happy with the way I skied. I came here knowing I’d have to work hard, especially with just one training run,” Miller said. After the Olympics, he went to Paris with one of his sisters and then played golf on a brief vacation in Florida. “I’m the kind of guy who benefits from training runs, especially with jumps as big as today, and knowing I’d need to be aggressive.”

He said, “The season’s almost over. I’ve only won one race so I really want to win here.”

With three races remaining, Miller is fourth in the overall points at 828; Austrian Benjamin Raich (1,310 points) has clinched the overall title which Miller won last season; Svindal is second at 910 with Walchhofer third (855).

He said getting his left knee, injured in December, back to full health is a priority for Miller as he looks to continue racing. “It’s my first focus. I’ve get my knee fixed,” Miller said.

“I think that’s a good load off Bode’s shoulders,” said John McBride, men’s downhill/super G head coach. “He’s got to have a pretty good feeling after this one. And I think ‘D’ [Rahlves] is a little disappointed. He had a really good race, but he made a big mistake up top and at this level you can’t do that.

“Stevie was skiing to the podium ” he was leading, and had the same split time as Bode, who came down later ” until he went out. He made it three-quarters of the way down and was taking risks, but couldn’t close the deal. And ‘Becko’ got a great experience, I think. He raced No. 12 (Tuesday) in training and No. 1 again today, so he didn’t get much of a chance to see how anyone else ran this course; he’s didn’t get a look at anyone else’s tracks.”

McBride praised organizers for the course preparation. “They put in some big jumps, maneuvering snow around and, really, they made a boring downhill into an exciting setup. Good for them,” he said.

World Cup Finals continue Thursday with super G for men and women.

For complete results: http://www.fis-ski.com/uk/604/1228.html?event_id=17080.


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