Miller places fifth in World Cup super-G
VAL GARDENA, Italy -- Defending overall World Cup champion Aksel Lund Svindal won a super-G on Friday for his first victory of the season, while Bode Miller finished fifth.
The Norwegian covered the 1.5-mile Saslong course in 1 minute, 38.35 seconds for the 13th World Cup victory of his career. Carlo Janka of Switzerland was second, 0.12 seconds behind, and Patrick Staudacher of Italy was third.
Svindal appeared to regain his form since sustaining a bruised lower leg during preseason training in October and needing five weeks off.
"When something occurs you just have to work on a new plan and adapt to it," Svindal said. "I was going to have to use my first races back to get in shape and I've been building up my form."
Miller, nursing a sore ankle, said he felt it during the run.
"I had a little mistake on top where I went low, " Miller said. "That's on that ankle side and that kind of hurt a little bit and was partly why I lost time up there -- but I skied aggressive."
Miller suggested he would have won if he had skied later when there was more light.
Skiing with a broken rib, super-G world champion Didier Cuche of Switzerland veered off course early in his run.
Janka won three consecutive races this month in Beaver Creek, Colo., then failed to finish all three races in Val d'Isere. Janka moved back to the top of the overall standings with 540 points, 25 ahead of Austrian rival Benjamin Raich, who placed ninth. Svindal moved ahead of Cuche into third with 388 points.
"It's a big satisfaction to be back on the podium," Janka said. "It's difficult to describe what happened in Val d'Isere. I've never gone out in three races like that. It's tough to get ready for another competition right after winning three races in a row.
Michael Walchhofer finished 13th and maintained his lead atop the super-G standings with 180 points, 26 ahead of Svindal and Raich.
Staudacher won the super-G at the 2007 world championships in Are, Sweden, but this was his first World Cup podium result in any discipline.
The race was run in frigid conditions, with the temperature at 3 degrees at the start. Snow conditions were optimal but several racers fell, along with Andrej Jerman of Slovenia.
Jerman had trouble landing a jump near the end of the course and hit a gate at full speed. It didn't take him long to get up, though, and he skied down under his own strength.
Francois Bourque pulled up toward the end of his run after landing a jump awkwardly and appeared to have torn the ACL in his left knee.
Canada head coach Paul Kristofic said "all signs are pointing to a ruptured ACL," pending further tests.
The Canadian team has been particularly hard hit by injuries this season, already losing downhill world champion John Kucera, Jean-Philippe Roy, Larisa Yurkiw and Kelly Vanderbeek entering the Olympics in Vancouver Feb. 12-28.
Defending champion Werner Heel and Christof Innerhofer of Italy also fell.
Svindal was one of six athletes invited to a safety discussion with the International Ski Federation this week in the wake of a spate of injuries, but he had nothing to criticize about Friday's course setup.
"I thought it was beautiful," Svindal said. "It was one of those super-G's where it's not just like downhill. There were a lot of turns all the way down."
Svindal finished 28th in the super-G here last season and was 34th in the downhill.
"I worked a lot on the flats, my gliding and my equipment this summer," he said. "That's one of the nice things about sports -- when you work hard it usually pays off."
The classic downhill is scheduled for Saturday on the Saslong, with the circuit traversing the Gardena pass to nearby Alta Badia for giant slalom and slalom races Sunday and Monday.
Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press