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WORLD CUP SKIING

Miller wraps up overall title

March 14, 2008|Chris Dufresne | Times Staff Writer

Two years after an Olympic crash and burn at Turin, America is suddenly mountain tops in Alpine ski racing.

Bode Miller, the go-it-alone typhoon, who split from the U.S. Ski Team last spring with both sides citing irreconcilable differences, scored a victory for independence Thursday when a 12th-place finish in super giant slalom clinched his second overall title at the World Cup Finals in Bormio, Italy.

Miller, 30, will soon be joined in American ski-slope history by 23-year-old Lindsey Vonn, who all but locked up the women's overall title with her second-place finish in the women's super G.

"It's not even like real to me," Vonn said of her inevitable accomplishment.

Miller and Vonn are poised to become the first American male and female to win overall crowns in the same year since Phil Mahre and Tamara McKinney in 1983.

Miller won his first overall title in 2005.

It is now a matter of fact for Miller and a matter of time for Vonn, who basically needs to step into her bindings for today's slalom to complete a unique American sweep.

Vonn has a 197-point lead over Germany's Maria Riesch with a maximum of 200 points available to Riesch in the final two races. To prevail, the German would have to win twice while Vonn would have to score less than three points.

Riesch has all but conceded the overall outcome.

"She's already congratulated me," Vonn said of Riesch. "She has to win both events to beat me. . . . It's not completely over but I'm not likely to lose it I'll say."

While many American fans measure success by counting Olympic medals, those in ski-racing circles consider the World Cup overall the most prestigious title because it measures excellence over the course of a season.

These are different headlines coming out of Italy for Miller and Vonn, who failed to capture lightning in the bottle at the 2006 Turin Games. Miller came up short in five events, making more news for his late-night exploits, while a horrific training run crash cost Vonn realistic medal chances in downhill and combined.

Two years later, Miller and Vonn are king and queen of another Italian hill.

Bode did it his way, as usual, and Lindsey did it hers.

Miller declined to comment after his unspectacular finish in super G secured his spectacular place in history.

Some days you can't get Miller to shut up; some days mum is his word.

Miller's post-Olympic refusal to conform made inevitable his split from the U.S. team, yet his talent remains undeniable.

His overall title was sealed when the skier in closest pursuit, Switzerland's Didier Cuche, announced he was skipping Saturday's final slalom.

With only two races left, that gave Miller an insurmountable 191-point lead in the standings. Cuche, a speed specialist who finished 16th in Thursday's super G, does not race slalom and would have only tried if he was within striking distance.

Vonn made it easier for herself by piling up 80 points in Thursday's super G.

"It was really important," Vonn said. "I didn't want to go into the tech races having a lot of pressure."

Slalom is Vonn's weakest discipline -- she ranks No. 41 in the World Cup standings.

Vonn was denied a chance to close out the competition when Wednesday's downhill was canceled because of soft snow. Vonn had already clinched this year's World Cup title in that event. The only other American to win a downhill title was Picabo Street, who did it twice.

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chris.dufresne@latimes.com

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