Men's slalom: One more chance for Miller, Austrians to make their mark

February 27, 2010|By Chris Dufresne | Tribune Olympic Bureau

WHISTLER, British Columbia — — Men's slalom, the last Olympic Alpine event, also provides last chances for Bode Miller and the Austrians.

Miller has already won three medals at the Vancouver Games, three more than the entire Austrian men's team.

Winner of the gold in super combined, silver in super G and the bronze in downhill, Miller was last seen last Tuesday skiing back to his condo after skiing out of the giant slalom.

As for his chances in today's slalom, think back to Dave Kingman's strikeout-to-home run ratio. Miller connects every now and then, as he did with the slalom run in combined that clinched the gold, but his risk-taking more often leads to disqualifications.

"When you ski slalom well, it's the best event there is," Miller said. "When you ski it poorly, it's the worst event there is."

Miller's last top-three, two-run slalom finish was a second in 2008. Five of his American-record 32 World Cup wins are in slalom, but he hasn't won a race in the discipline since 2004.

Still, Miller is a long shot to make history by becoming the only skier to win Olympic medals in all five disciplines - lacking only the slalom. At the 2002 Salt Lakes Games, he trailed leader Jean-Pierre Vidal by .36 of a second after the first run and could have skied safely to assure at least a bronze. Instead, Miller went for the gold and ended up skidding out early, hiking back to the gate and finishing 25th.

Is this the last Olympic appearance for Miller?

"I don't know," he said after winning gold in the super combined. "I feel pretty old."

The Austrian men, meanwhile, are trying to avoid the boot bagel in Whistler. They went 1-2-3 in the slalom four years ago in Italy. The Austrian to watch is Reinfried Herbst, whose four World Cup victories this year are three more than any other racer. Herbst was only 18 when he took silver in slalom at the 2006 Turin Games.

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