Miller may skip defense of downhill title

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SCHLADMING, Austria (AP) – Bode Miller wants what he hasn’t got – a slalom world championship.

To get it, Miller might not defend his downhill title at the upcoming world championships so he can avoid the demanding jumps on which he injured his left knee last year.

“I’ve been considering whether I’ll race all the races and where my goals are,” he said before qualifying for the slalom championships Tuesday night. “I might have to think about skipping the downhill. The downhill there last year was what beat up my knee pretty bad.”

Miller is trying to become the first skier with world championship titles in all five disciplines. The only one missing from his collection is the slalom.

Miller’s last chance to qualify for a berth in the slalom worlds at Are, Sweden, came Tuesday night at the World Cup event, and he did so just by finishing.

He was 25th, but Miller hadn’t even completed a World Cup slalom since finishing 18th in Kitzbuehel on Jan. 22, 2006.

The downhill worlds in Are will be staged on the Olympia course, which is notorious for its big jumps. It was the same course used at last year’s World Cup finals.

Miller won both the downhill and super-G titles at the 2005 worlds in Bormio, Italy.

Olympic combined champion Ted Ligety and Jimmy Cochran have already secured two of the four spots available.

The championships run from Feb. 3-18, and the downhill is scheduled before the slalom.

“That big 230-foot jump with the flat hard landing is not that nice where you’re as old as I am,” the 29-year-old Miller said.

At last year’s finals, racers went an average of 62 mph, but hit speeds as high as 75 mph.

Miller, who has had knee problems in recent years, exacerbated the injury last year in training when he landed heavily on the top jump. He then finished second behind Aksel Lund Svindal of Norway, but underwent surgery last spring to fix his meniscus.

“It’s probably one of the biggest jumps on the World Cup,” said teammate Steven Nyman, who crashed on a tricky turn lower on the course last year. “The jump just drops away and you go big. You need to be over your skis or something nasty is going to happen. A lot of guys’ knees were hurting after that thing.”

Olympic downhill champion Antoine Deneriaz and American teammate Christopher Beckmann also got hurt at last year’s event.

“It’s certainly gnarly, but Bode’s just talking. I hardly doubt he won’t race it,” said Nyman, who won the downhill in December in Val Gardena, Italy.

AP-ES-01-30-07 1843EST

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