PARK CITY, Utah -The collective sighs reverberated through the stands and throughout Deer Valley.
Bode Miller, the trying to become the first American to win three medals in Alpine skiing, was off the slalom course, big time.
Solidly standing in second place after the first run of the men's slalom Saturday (almost a second ahead of third place), Miller veered out of two gates in the middle of the run, then gallantly got back on course. He awkwardly slid out of another gate near the end and finished 25th, 10.8 seconds behind gold medal winner Jean-Pierre Vidal of France.
"Somebody do a protest!" a youngster screamed from the stands after Miller finished.
Miller had won silver medals in the giant slalom and combined. He then ran into a treacherous course, appropriately named "Know You Don't."
The course was made even trickier by warmer-than-usual weather on the Wasatch Range, making a slushy snow. After the first runs, the course was changed for sharper, quicker turns.
The first four skiers on the second run either crashed or failed to finish.
Rainer Schoenfelder of Austria, ranked second going into the event, didn't finish the first run as did sixth-ranked Giorgia Rocca.
The course demanded caution, which goes against Miller's grain. He pushed it too much on the disastrous run.
"I want to win the race, so I do what it takes," Miller said. "My coaches set the course and they wanted to challenge the whole field. That usually allows me to challenge myself and put some time on the guys. It was a great course and it was tough. You really had to ski well to make it down."
He was only .36 of a second off Vidal's lead after the first run.
Vidal said, "I knew Miller would take all the risks. And I also knew that if he is in the finish corral, it would be very difficult for me. But when I knew he is out, I just finish the race and it's OK.
Miller added, "It (the second run) was going well. Going out of the start, I felt good. I felt comfortable. But it's a tough course. It's hard to ski well here. The best guys in the world are having problems like this so you know it's pretty tough."
Sabastien Amiez of France won the silver and Alain Baxter of Germany the bronze. It was the first 1-2 finish for France in an Alpine skiing event since Jean-Claude Killy and Guy Perillat did in 1968.
"It was still an awesome experience here," said Miller. "Even today, I skied a great first run and that was the way I wanted to ski. It was the way I wanted to ski on the second run - except for blowing out on the course."
(David McCollum, sports columnist for the Log Cabin Democrat in Conway, Ark., is part of the Morris News Service team covering the Winter Olympics).
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