Macartney third at downhill |

Macartney third at downhill

Scott Macartney, of the United States, reacts at finish line after taking third place in an Alpine Ski World Cup Men's Downhill, in Val Gardena, Italy, Saturday, Dec.15, 2007.(AP Photo/Armando Trovati)

VAL GARDENA, Italy ” Bode Miller is skiing on his own, and the U.S. team is doing just fine without him.

Scott Macartney finished third in the Saslong downhill Saturday for his first top-three finish in nearly two years. Marco Sullivan placed second in the season-opening downhill in Lake Louise, Alberta, and Steven Nyman was runner-up in Beaver Creek, last month.

“We’ve had three different guys on the podium,” Macartney said. “I think our team is in great shape right now.”

Michael Walchhofer won Saturday and has now captured all five World Cup classics. The Austrian covered the 2.14-mile course in 1 minute, 56.70 seconds. Switzerland’s Didier Cuche was second, 0.18 behind, and Macartney was 0.56 back.

Val Gardena is one of the five classic downhills on the World Cup circuit. The others are: Val d’Isere, France; Wengen, Switzerland; Kitzbuehel, Austria; and Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany.

“Everybody was asking me when I would win this race, the last big classic missing from my collection,” Walchhofer said. “Maybe I do better under pressure.”

Walchhofer won Wengen, Garmisch (twice) and Val D’Isere in 2005 and Kitzbuehel in 2006. His best previous result on this course was a super-G victory three years ago and four runner-up finishes in downhill.

“This trophy will have a very special place in my collection,” Walchhofer said.

It was Macartney’s first podium since a super-G in Garmisch in January 2006. That came at the end of the season, whereas now it’s the beginning.

“Hopefully this is an opportunity for me to take some confidence into the next races,” Macartney said.

Miller finished eighth after placing second in Friday’s super-G. He was on pace for another podium finish until he got a little wild on the lower section of the course, flailing his arms to keep his balance.

“I got pinched in on one gate and it cost me a huge amount of time,” Miller said. “The mistake lasted for three gates because in the Ciaslat (a tricky section of the course) you can’t get your line back very easily. Besides that I think I was right there for the win or the podium for sure.”

Nyman, the defending champion, got his skis tangled and fell five seconds into his run.

Miller now trains on his own and has hired his own coaches.

“Some things have changed, some haven’t,” Macartney said. “We still see Bode. I got a great course report from him yesterday in the super-G.”

“I miss him in training,” he added. “It’s always great to have people who are better than you in training. Racing, he’s always done his own thing and I completely respect that.”

Macartney, who has a degree in economics from Dartmouth, blew out his knee on this course in 2003 and missed the rest of the season.

“I’ve always enjoyed coming here. I’ve had some good luck and some bad luck,” he said. “I’ve been injured here and the first time I was ever top 10 was here and today is one of my best results. I really love the valley.”

Added Miller: “He made no mistakes, that’s what it takes here.”

Swiss skier Silvan Zurbriggen fell while landing a jump and is out for the season with a left knee injury, the Swiss ski federation said Saturday. He was airlifted to a hospital.

On Sunday, the men will ski a giant slalom in Alta Badia and a slalom Monday. Miller and Ted Ligety will be the top American challengers.

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