Miller can’t finish slalom

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KITZBUEHEL, Austria (AP) – Bode Miller straddled a gate, lost a ski and took a tumble. It could get worse.

Miller only has two more chances to qualify for the slalom at the world championships after crashing in the opening leg of a World Cup race Saturday. It’s now been over a year since Miller has completed a slalom.

This time, the race won by unheralded Jens Byggmark of Sweden was run under heavy snowfalls, and that didn’t make it any easier for Miller.

“I’m capable as anyone in the starting field of winning these races,” insisted the 29-year-old Miller. “When I start getting things to the finish line, I don’t think there will be too much to say about my speed. I just have to try to get to the finish line.”

Miller is looking to become the first skier to collect world championship gold medals in all five disciplines. The missing gold is in the slalom.

Miller hit the gate midway down the first run, then hiked back up two sets of gates to rerun it. Moments later, he lost his right ski on a left turn and crashed.

It was the second time in three weeks Miller lost his right ski in a slalom. The last time, it inexplicably popped off midway down the second run in Adelboden.

“It’s the same problem as in Adelboden,” said Rainer Salzgeber, who works for Head – the company that makes Miller’s skis. “In a way, he is the only guy who has a problem like that.”

Salzgeber said the company found a solution to Miller’s binding plight, but Miller felt the adjustments could lead to more problems.

The 21-year-old Byggmark stunned the favorites for his first World Cup win, and he took the lead in the slalom standings. He won with a combined time of 1 minute, 43.74 seconds.

Austria’s Mario Matt was second in 1:44.61. German Alois Vogl was third in 1:45.22.

As for Miller’s woes, U.S. coach Phil McNichol seemed less concerned about equipment than the fact the skier straddled a gate.

“For me the binding problem wasn’t a big issue,” McNichol said. “I noticed it but the ski came off later, after his other mistake. It’s frustrating. Bode is on form in slalom. He finishes 90 percent of his training runs and he’s pushing it really hard.”

Olympic combined gold medalist Ted Ligety finished 15th.

Miller will have another shot here Sunday. His last chance will come Tuesday night at nearby Schladming.

Miller has failed to complete 17 of his last 20 World Cup slalom races. The last one he completed was at Kitzbuehel on Jan. 22, 2006, when he finished 18th.

He has five career World Cup slalom victories, but the last one dates back to Dec. 13, 2004. But that losing streak could end at any moment.

“Sometimes when you get on a streak of not getting to the finish line, things start to seem less and less realistic,” said Miller, who has four World Cup wins this season. “But I look at it the same as the others. If I get to the finish I have a chance.

“You can never really blame the equipment much. It’s almost always pilot error,” he continued. “There’s been a couple of circumstances where it’s been bad luck. There’s a lot of stuff that can go on in ski racing. Unfortunately when it starts to go against you, it just seems to build momentum and keeps doing that.”

In 2005, Miller won a world championship gold in the downhill and super-G.

in Bormio, Italy. In 2003, he won the giant slalom and combined, and took silver in super-G.

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