SESTRIERE, Italy American Bode Miller was disqualified from the Alpine combined today for straddling a gate in the first slalom run, just when he seemed to have built a commanding lead for his first Olympic gold medal.
The disqualification gave the lead to Austrian Benjamin Raich, who had trailed Miller by nearly a second.
A nonchalant Miller said he would leave it up to U.S. team coaches whether to protest.
I ve straddled probably more times than most people have finished the slalom, he told reporters at the bottom of the run.
Indeed, the often-reckless American failed to finish five of seven slaloms in World Cup circuit this season.
If it s clear, it s clear, Miller said. I don t plan to get disappointed.
Like a cowboy riding a wild horse, Miller was a sharp contrast to the smooth, swivel-hipped style of Raich in a classic U.S.-Austrian showdown on a cloud-shrouded evening in the Italian Alps.
About three-quarters of the way through the first of two evening slalom runs on the 42nd of 56 gates Miller pinned a red gate with his left ski and the post popped up between his feet.
I came down and the run felt fine, Miller said. I had no idea I had straddled. ... I was in the recovery room already getting ready for the second run when I heard it on the radio and I looked at the replay.
By his own assessment, Miller was not as wild as he usually is.
I wasn t so much conservative as just bad, he said.
Still, it might have been good enough had it not been for his mistake in the flush, when the skier comes out of a straight line of flags and makes a sharp turn.
The error wasn t immediately obvious.
The large scoreboard at the foot of the hill showed several replays after his run, but Miller s name remained atop the leaderboard for nearly a half-hour. That s when an orange asterisk went up beside his name, and seconds later 1. Bode Miller was gone completely, replaced at the top with Raich.
Miller, who had seemed set to become the first U.S. Alpine skier to win three Olympic medals, had a time of 2 minutes, 23.68 seconds through the downhill and one slalom run. Raich was 97-hundredths of a second back at 2:24.65.
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