Miller fails to finish men's slalom

Updated: February 28, 2010, 8:44 AM ET
ESPN.com news services

WHISTLER, British Columbia -- Bode Miller's bid for Olympic history ended early Saturday when he skied off-course just 8 seconds into his final event.

The 32-year-old from Franconia, N.H., trying to become the first man to win four Alpine medals in the same Olympics, straddled the fifth gate in the first run of the slalom on a fog-shrouded, snowy day.

Giuliano Razzoli won the Olympic slalom Saturday and gave Italy its first Alpine gold medal of the Vancouver Games.

Razzoli was the first-leg leader and had a combined two-run time of 1 minute, 39.32 seconds to become the first Italian man to win an Alpine medal since his mentor, the flamboyant Alberto Tomba, took slalom silver at Lillehammer in 1994. Tomba won the slalom at Calgary in 1988, and was the last Italian man to win a gold, in the giant slalom at Albertville in 1992.

Tomba watched near the finish area and jumped up and down with both arms raised in triumph when his 25-year-old protégé crossed the line.

"Now I can understand how it is for the parents," Tomba said after Razzoli came over to embrace him. "It's more emotional. I think it's better to be racing."

Miller was among 48 of 102 starters who failed to complete the morning leg, raced in some of the toughest conditions of an Olympic Alpine program in which weather and course surfaces were a constant factor.

"I just hooked a tip, and it's obviously disappointing when you're fired up and you're skiing well and everything's there," said Miller, who got gold in the super-combined, silver in the super-G and bronze in downhill.

Miller is one of only five men to get three Alpine medals at a Games, a record performance for a U.S. skier.

He won gold in the super-combined, silver in the super-G and bronze in downhill.

His five career Olympic medals are tied for second on the all-time men's list behind Norway's Kjetil Andre Aamodt, who has eight.

[+] EnlargeBode Miller
Greg M. Cooper/US PresswireBode Miller was among 48 of 102 starters who failed to complete the morning leg, ending his bid to win four Alpine medals in the same Olympics.

Miller had not won a two-leg slalom race on the World Cup circuit since December 2004, but he showed excellent form last Sunday in the slalom portion of the super-combined to take his first Olympic title.

However, his run Saturday ended after only 50 meters, still in sight of the start house.

"It was over before I even had much chance to know what my skis were doing on that snow," Miller said. "I wasn't pivoting; I wasn't sliding the ski at all. That's a little bit indicative of my lack of time on slalom skiing, because I might have known that my skis would do that if I'd had more training."

Miller fell behind in his fitness and slalom training after contemplating retirement and waiting until last September to return for the Olympic season.

His preparations were set back further when he had knee surgery last October and injured his right ankle in December while playing volleyball.

Miller was one of 10 men ranked among the top 30 skiers who did not make it to the finish in difficult conditions for racing. Only 54 of 102 who started completed the first run.

"It's the Olympics, and we knew it was going to be challenging, and we knew it was going to be tough and everyone's skiing 100 percent," Miller said.

Razzoli said he knew how long Italy had waited for another gold medal.

"It's incredible," Razzolli said. "It's a long time. I'm happy for my country."

Ivica Kostelic of Croatia was 0.16 behind Razzoli for his second silver medal of these Olympics, after being runner-up to Miller in super-combined last Sunday.

Andre Myhrer of Sweden got bronze, 0.44 behind, for the first Alpine medal for Sweden's men in 22 years.

Defending champion Benjamin Raich was fourth, 0.05 off the podium, leaving Austria's powerful men's team without a medal just four years after they won eight at Turin. The best they could do in Vancouver was three fourth-place finishes.

Razzoli raised both arms in triumph on crossing the finish line.

"I've been feeling this medal for a long time, working a lot, training a lot, for this day," he said. "Now I'm here with a gold medal."

Tomba, who was at the mountain working for Italian television, sent his usual text message an hour before the race.

Later, as Razzoli passed through the interview area after taking nearly a half-second lead in the first run, Tomba playfully chastised him.

"I told you to take it easy the first run and attack the second," Tomba said.

I just hooked a tip, and it's obviously disappointing when you're fired up and you're skiing well and everything's there. You go out of the gate with the intention of absolutely maximizing every turn.

-- American Bode Miller,
who did not finish Saturday

"I know, I know, but I couldn't stop myself," Razzoli said.

Razzoli comes from the same Emilia Romagna region of Italy as Tomba, and was making his Olympics debut, though he skied as a forerunner testing the slalom course at the 2006 Turin Games.

He showed his form last month winning his first World Cup race in Zagreb, Croatia -- and was then hoisted onto Tomba's shoulders in celebration.

Kostelic was fourth-fastest in the morning but moved up to claim his third career Olympic silver. He also was runner-up behind Ted Ligety of the United States in traditional combined at the 2006 Turin Games.

Myhrer leaped on to the podium thanks to the best second-leg time -- 0.46 seconds faster than any rival -- after being 10th in the morning.

He got Sweden's first men's Alpine medal since a bronze for Lars-Borje Eriksson in super-G at Calgary.

The 27-year-old Myhrer had a single career World Cup victory, at Beaver Creek, Colo., three seasons ago, but was second behind Kostelic at Wengen, Switzerland, last month.

Raich fell just short of claiming his fifth career Olympic medal, which would have made him the most decorated Austrian Alpine skier in games history. He is tied at four with Hermann Maier and Stephan Eberharter, both now retired.

Wet snow, rain and a soupy fog affected visibility and softened the Dave Murray course, which was staging a sixth race following the women's slalom with 87 starters Friday.

Course workers spread fertilizer and thousands of gallons of water on the track to bind and harden the slushy surface. Slalom racers prefer an icy crust, which allows them to carve tight turns on their sharp-edged skis.

World champion Manfred Pranger of Austria and Ted Ligety of the U.S. were among several racers tricked by a difficult compression midway down the first run.

Pranger was leading when he was launched into the air and landed on the base of his spine. He was unhurt.

Triple Olympic medalist Aksel Lund Svindal, who rarely skis slalom and watched on television at home in Norway, posted a message on his Twitter page describing the course as "crazy."

Canada's Julien Cousineau put down the second-fastest second run time, to jump from 19th to eighth place, trailing Razzoli by 1.34.

The host nation finished the 10-event Alpine program without a medal.

France also was shut out, after its best medal hope, Julien Lizeroux, finished ninth of the 48 finishers Saturday.

Among those finishing their runs was Ghana's Kwame Nkrumah-Acheampong, wearing No. 102.

The self-styled "Snow Leopard" made his Olympic debut at 35 with two cleans trips down in a combined 2 minutes, 22.60 seconds.

Nkrumah-Acheampong trailed Razzoli by 43.28 seconds, but he wasn't last. He was almost a half-minute faster than Erjon Tola of Albania.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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