American men fail to finish

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ADELBODEN, Switzerland (AP) – Marc Berthod’s improbable World Cup victory was helped by nearly impossible conditions in a race in which all three American men failed to finish.

Berthod captured his first victory Sunday, starting from the 60th position and taking advantage of slushy, deteriorating slopes to win a slalom and become the first Swiss man to win a World Cup race in nearly three years.

The 23-year-old Berthod won with a two-run time of 1 minute, 47.42 seconds. Austria’s Benjamin Raich, the reigning Olympic champion, was 0.26 seconds back in second place. Another Austrian, Mario Matt, was third, 0.38 behind Berthod.

“This is so cool,” Berthod said. “My goal this morning was to qualify for the second run and I won the race. It’s a huge surprise.”

No American finished both runs. Jimmy Cochran and Ted Ligety did not finish the first run.

Bode Miller was 11th after the opening run, but lost his right ski midway down the second run and now has not completed a slalom in almost a year.

“His ski just came right off, dropped off his foot after the turn,” said U.S. men’s head coach Phil McNichol. “But he skied really well today. He was in good slalom form. It’s horrible luck.”

“It’s clear he can execute. It’s just been a hard time putting it together. Today he did but he just had something sidetrack him. This was out of his control. It’s just amazing, unfortunate bad luck.”

It rained during the first leg. Berthod, the 60th skier to start, had to deal with worsening conditions on the wet, slushy Kuonisbaergli course. He finished 27th on the opening leg to barely qualify for the second run.

Berthod was fourth to start the second leg and enjoyed cleaner course conditions. He had the fastest second leg, more than 1 seconds quicker than any other competitor.

, then watched as one skier after another was unable to better his time.

“I had a strong lead at the finish, so I was very pleased when it became a top-20 potential result, and then a top 15, and then a top five and then a podium. And suddenly there was nobody left at the start. It was a great time for me,” he said.

The World Cup victor with the highest first-run starting number in slalom was Croatia’s Ivica Kostelic, who started 64th in Aspen, Colo., in 2001.

“He was 3 seconds behind me on the first run, but I saw he had a strong second run on the TV,” Raich said. “Normally it’s impossible to come from so far back to win, but sometimes conditions are so difficult and then it’s possible. When this situation occurs you need to make good runs and make the most of it. He did that.”

The previous Swiss man to win a World Cup race was Didier Cuche, in a downhill at Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany, in 2004. That was 103 World Cup races ago. The previous Swiss man to win a World Cup slalom was Didier Plaschy at Kranjska Gora, Slovenia, in 1999.

Only nine of the first 15 skiers – the circuit’s best-ranked racers – completed their first run. Ligety missed two gates and did not finish. He skidded onto his side just a few gates into his run. The Olympic combined gold medalist hiked back up to ski that gate, but went out again a little lower down.

World Cup overall leader Aksel Lund Svindal also failed to finish his first run, but the Norwegian still leads the overall rankings after 18 races with 639 points. Cuche is second with 571 points, while Miller is third with 540 and Raich is fourth with 458.

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