Bode bonks; Svindal wins super combi
BEAVER CREEK – Did Norway’s Aksel Lund Svindal win Thursday’s super combined at the Birds of Prey or did American Bode Miller lose it?Miller seemingly had the 22nd World Cup win of his career in his back pocket, starting in the final competitive run of the slalom with a 2.04-second lead – a huge margin in alpine skiing – over Svindal.But as has been a part of his capricious resume, Miller inexplicably skied off course when he hit an early gate. His skis clapped together and a virtually certain World Cup win was gone, leaving the Norwegian with his first title in super combined.”To be honest, I was so happy I was on the podium,” said Svindal of his chances of winning when Miller was in the start gate. “I was not thinking too much. I was kind of thinking if (Austria’s) Benni (Raich) had been there, he would be a bigger favorite because Bode has a higher rate of going out in slalom. I didn’t think too much. … He can go out or he can be the fastest guy on the planet. When I think about it now, I think there’s a 50-50 chance of me winning or him winning. I was so happy I was on the podium. I was celebrating already.”As it turned out, Svindal, finishing with a combined time of 2 minutes, 6.74 seconds, had a lot more to celebrate. The Norwegian, who was second in the overall last year, picked up his third World Cup win – he won super-G in Lake Louise, Alberta, and a downhill in Are, Sweden. Switzerland’s Marc Berthod (2:06.93) picked up the first podium of his career with a silver, followed by Austrian veteran Rainer Schoenfelder in third.But the shock that continued at Thursday’s Captain’s Meeting and likely late into the night was Miller’s downfall.
As is typical when Miller is a DNF, the face of American skiing made a quick exit without speaking to the media.”He pinched a gate,” said teammate Steve Nyman. “He’s notorious for that. He kicked his feet back and then it took his tempo off and he was out of the course. He pushes the line and it works sometimes. And when he does, he destroys everybody.”There’s respect for somebody (like that). He’s won enough. He wants to destroy. Why not?”Miller shocking exit with a big lead quickly emptied the stands at the finish stadium at Birds of Prey, while Svindal jumped out of the “hot seat” exultantly.One is the loneliest numberMiller laid down a stunning downhill run in the morning. Race officials moved the downhill of the SC to the shortened weather start, just as had occurred during last year’s Birds of Prey downhill. The now-retired Daron Rahlves won that DH in 1:13.37. Miller was on an even brisker pace Thursday, clocking a 1:13.06.
At the end of the downhill segment, Miller led Austrian Christoph Gruber by 0.41 seconds. But with Gruber, much more of a speed specialist, Miller’s realistic lead was 0.5 seconds over Switzerland’s Didier Cuche.Miller appeared to catch a break when Cuche was disqualified between the downhill and the slalom, leaving the American with a 1.01-second advantage ahead of Austrian Mario Scheiber. But Miller inexplicably faltered and three skiers were there to seize the day.Svindal was 20th after the downhill and none to pleased. He hammered his second run, posting the second-best slalom time in 51.64 seconds.”I knew had to be fast to make a result because my downhill wasn’t too good,” Svindal said. “I had nothing to lose and everything to win, and I just decided during inspection that I would crush the course. It’s hard in the way it’s fast. The rhythm was good. There (were) no big traps. I figured I would have to go 100 percent to make a result. When I saw my result, I thought maybe top five, a podium would be great. I didn’t expect to win.”Family tiesBerthod certainly didn’t expect to be on the podium. His best finish going into Thursday’s super combi was seventh in a giant slalom in Adelboden, Switzerland, during the 2004-05 season.As it turned out, Berthod was the most consistent skier of the day in the two disciplines. He took eighth in the downhill (1:14.25) and seventh in the slalom (52.68).
The podium surprised the 23-year-old native of St. Moritz.”I didn’t think I had a chance for the podium,” he said. “After the downhill, I was in sixth position (sic). Bode was in front. I tried my best and now I’m second.”The Berthod family has World Cup ties. Marc’s father, Martin, was a downhiller in the 1970s, but never reached the podium. “I think he’s happy too with me,” Marc said, adding that he was planning on calling his family. That would include Marc’s uncle Rene who had five seconds in his career, including silver in the 1975 Aspen downhill.SurpriseSchoenfelder thought his day was over before the slalom started. He finished 36th in the downhill, and only the top 30 advance to the slalom. But several speed specialists dropped out, thinking they couldn’t do well in the slalom.
That not only opened the door for Schoenfelder, but he ended up with a good draw in the slalom – No. 3.”Then, there was some smell in the air,” Schoenfelder said. “I was thinking I could come forward in the first 10 or the first eight. When I was in (the) finish, I knew I had a good run. Then I thought, ‘Now let’s see what happens.'”The Austrian ended up nailing the best slalom run of the day with a 51.20.The super combined top 10 was rounded out by Peter Fill (Italy), Ales Gorza (Slovenia), Ondrej Bank (Czech Republic), Jean-Baptiste Grange (France), Didier Defago (Switzerland), Niklas Ranier (Sweden) and American Ted Ligety.Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 748-2934 or email@example.com.Vail Daily, Vail Colorado CO