VAL GARDENA, Italy (AP) — Bode Miller’s conditioning is strong and his sprained ankle is getting better. It’s the wind and the light, however, that have been slowing the two-time overall World Cup winner.
Miller finished ninth Sunday as the Saslong downhill marked its 40th year. His performance was affected by a strong headwind that whipped up just as he and the other contenders took the course.
Manuel Osborne-Paradis won in 2 minutes, 1.27 seconds to give the injury-hit Canadian team a boost. Mario Scheiber of Austria was second, 0.13 seconds behind. Ambrosi Hoffmann of Switzerland and Johan Clarey of France shared third, 0.25 seconds behind the Canadian.
Osborne-Paradis, Hoffmann and Clarey each started before the wind shift.
"Take nothing away from the guys in the lead because they skied well," Miller said. "But there’s two ingredients you need besides your skiing to win here.
"You’re skis have to be fast on that day and you need to have the right start position and it’s hard to predict what that start position is going to be because the wind moves around and the clouds come and then go away, but it was clear those guys had some favorable conditions."
Miller was an early starter in Friday’s super-G and struggled with bad light to place fifth.
This time, Miller could at least console himself with the fact that his skiing was competitive with the likes of two-time defending champion Michael Walchhofer and Didier Cuche, who also had to deal with the wind.
Walchhofer placed fifth and Cuche — skiing with a broken rib — came 10th.
"Cuche said he skied well, I skied error-free, Walchhofer said he couldn’t have skied any better and all of us are back a ways, so we just didn’t have the luck today," Miller said.
Miller debated retirement over the summer and did virtually no offseason training. Then he injured his ankle during a team volleyball game in Val d’Isere, France, last week. But he’s stopped taking painkillers and anti-inflammatory medicine for his ankle.
"That made it a little bit worse. But to recover between races I have to be off that stuff, otherwise I can’t race four races in a row," he said. "It was sore but in the race it didn’t seem to make much difference."
There has been an unusually high number of skiers injured this season but the Canadian team has been particularly hard hit, already losing downhill world champion John Kucera, Jean-Philippe Roy, Larisa Yurkiw and Kelly Vanderbeek before its home Olympics in Vancouver from Feb. 12-28.
Another Canadian, Francois Bourque, pulled up with a suspected torn ligament in his left knee Friday, and will probably also miss the rest of the season.
Osborne-Paradis was joined in the top 10 by teammate Robbie Dixon (sixth). Another Canadian, Erik Guay, was 11th.
"We know what our job is and what we have to do, and we’re not letting what’s going on around us to change that," Osborne-Paradis said.
It was the third victory of Osborne-Paradis’ career and second this season, having also taken a super-G on home snow in Lake Louise, Alberta, last month.
Last season, a record five Americans finished in the top 10 of this downhill. This year it was six in the top 24. Marco Sullivan placed 12th, Steven Nyman was 18th, Erik Fisher 19th, Scott Macartney 23rd and Andrew Weibrecht 24th.
Nyman won at this course three years ago and this was his best downhill finish since he took ninth a year ago on the Saslong. The Sundance, Utah, resident started skiing again only last month after surgery on both knees.
"I’m back in the points, so I’m OK with that," said Nyman, who dropped down to the Nor-Am circuit and won two downhills in Lake Louise last week.
Ted Ligety skipped this stop to prepare for giant slalom and slalom races in nearby Alta Badia on Sunday and Monday. Miller will also race on the Gran Risa, having won the giant slalom in 2002.
"The GS I’m excited for. I made a change in my boots I’m pretty excited to try out," he said. "The slalom will be tough on my ankle."