Palander wins first World Cup this season |

Palander wins first World Cup this season

AP photoFinland's Kalle Palander, right, the winner, and runner-up Akira Sasaki, of Japan, left, celebrate after the alpine ski men's World Cup slalom race in Schladming, Austria, Tuesday.

SCHLADMING, Austria – Bode Miller was disqualified after straddling a gate during the first run of a World Cup slalom event, won by Finland’s Kalle Palander on Tuesday.American Ted Ligety, who had the leading time in the first run, and Olympic champion Jean-Pierre Vidal also were disqualified for running over a gate.Palander put together two near-perfect runs to win his first World Cup race of the season, finishing in a combined time of 1 minute, 42.34 seconds.”Unbelievable,” Palander said at the finish line. “My last win is two years ago. I can hardly remember feeling so great after a win.”Season slalom leader Giorgio Rocca, who was the next-to-last skier on the final run, looked to be in a commanding position but tripped over a gate in the bottom section of the course.

Rocca, who was seeking his sixth victory this season after winning the first five races, also straddled a gate in the last slalom in Kitzbuehel.Miller, a winner here in 2002, is expected to skip next week’s races in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany, to rest heading into the Olympics. He has not missed a World Cup start since March 2002, a streak of 136 races.Miller avoided reporters after the race, and when later seen in a VIP section, didn’t address his disqualification.”I’m fine,” Miller said.The World Cup victory was Palander’s 11th and first since a Sestriere slalom in March 2004. He also won on Schladming’s Planai course three years ago.

“I was beginning to think I would never win again, but last year I was on the podium four times and this year I was close, so I was thinking it was still possible,” Palander said.”I tried to push myself, there were some difficult tests, but now it feels great.”Japan’s Akira Sasaki came in second, 0.79 behind – to equal his best career result – while overall World Cup leader Benjamin Raich was third, 0.81 seconds back.Ligety, first out of the starting hut, clocked a solid 0.70 seconds faster than Palander. Replays showed he had overrun a gate about midway down the icy track.Raich, a three-time winner here, made several errors and finished 10th in the first leg. He skied the fastest second run but was unable to overcome a nearly nine-tenths of a second deficit to win his first race of the season in his favorite discipline.

Raich increased his overall point total to 952, 248 ahead of fellow Austrian Michael Walchhofer. American Daron Rahlves is third with 689 points, one ahead of Miller, last year’s champion.”I knew I would make mistakes, but I knew I had to really go for it. But I’m happy with the race,” Raich said. He added that he was not thinking about the standings race despite his runaway lead.”I don’t think about it. I don’t think about Bode. Nothing bad about Bode, but for me it is about fun and it is going very well,” he said.The slalom in Schladming was the last before the Turin Games.Vail, Colorado

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