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WINTER OLYMPICS

Bode Miller wants a final peak run; Austrian men don't want to be mountain goats

Men's slalom, the last Olympic Alpine event, is the only one Miller has never won. The Austrian men, 1-2-3 in the slalom four years ago in Turin, are aiming to avoid a medal shutout in Vancouver.

February 27, 2010|By Chris Dufresne

Reporting from Whistler, Canada — Men's slalom, the last Olympic Alpine event, also provides last chances for Bode Miller and the Austrians.

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

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

As for his chances in Saturday'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 longshot poised to make history by becoming the only skier to win Olympic medals in all five disciplines -- lacking only the slalom. At the 2002 Salt Lake Games, he trailed leader Jean-Pierre Vidal by 0.36 of a second after the first run and could have skied safely to ensure 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 and return Benjamin Raich, the defending champion. The Austrian to watch, though, 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 the slalom at the 2006 Turin Games.

chris.dufresne@latimes.com

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