Bode’s back: Miller wins World Cup super combi in Wengen
WENGEN, Switzerland – Just in time for the Olympics, Bode Miller is a winner again.
With the Vancouver Games less than a month away, Miller won a World Cup super combined Friday for his first victory in almost two years.
“Winning was great,” he said. “I’m really happy for a win. It’s a great time of the year for me to be moving forward.”
The New Hampshire skier missed much of the offseason while considering retirement and skipped recent races to rest his injured right ankle.
Miller completed his slalom run in 49.05 seconds after leading the morning downhill for a combined time of 2 minutes, 35.96 seconds. It was his 32nd World Cup victory.
Carlo Janka of Switzerland was 0.37 back on the Lauberhorn course, and Swiss teammate Silvan Zurbriggen was third, 0.42 off the lead. Ted Ligety of the U.S. was fifth.
Miller turned to look at the clock and giant screen for several seconds after crossing the finish line. He tapped his ski poles behind his back in a small gesture of satisfaction before spinning to face the crowd – a Wengen record of 17,500 for Friday racing.
He stood still for several seconds, as if savoring the moment. He then was greeted by a grinning Zurbriggen, who heartily grabbed Miller’s fist before Janka offered his congratulations.
“He’s a great skier,” said Zurbriggen, also third last year. “He’s a great guy and he’s always really nice to us. He did an unbelievably good downhill … and he was the best today.”
U.S. men’s coach Sasha Rearick lauded Miller’s work during the three-week holiday break.
“Is it a surprise to me that he can come out and win? No,” Rearick said. “He’s one of the best skiers in the world. He knows this hill so well and he executed his game plan.”
Janka said Miller looked good in both disciplines.
“Second place was all I could get,” he said. “Bode in the downhill was too strong.”
Miller’s downhill run gave him a 0.69 cushion on Janka, who won the Wengen super combi last year. Miller said he made four big mistakes in his downhill, and that skiing aggressively gives him the least pain in the technically demanding slalom. He completed it without major errors despite new boots, bindings and skis.
“The most important thing was the equipment,” Miller said. “That’s not the best way to go out there and try to win, but I have to do it. I started so late this year I had no time to test.”
Miller last won a World Cup race in March 2008, a downhill in Kvitfjell, Norway. He last finished on the podium as runner-up in the classic Lauberhorn downhill exactly one year ago. He won the race in 2007 and ’08 and will be one of the favorites Saturday.
Benjamin Raich had the fastest slalom time to move up from 15th to fourth, and maintained his lead in the overall World Cup standings. The Austrian leads Janka 689-657. Ligety is seventh overall with 362 points, and Miller moved up to ninth place with 318 points.
Ligety, who won gold in traditional combined at the 2006 Turin Olympics at age 21. Rearick called Ligety’s performance Friday “one of the best runs of his young downhill career.”
“Ted had a solid second run in the slalom,” Rearick said. “It was good to see him fight to a finish.”
Miller is third in the super-combined standings after three races, trailing Raich and Janka. The fourth and final event is at Kitzbuehel, Austria, next weekend.