U.S. ski racer Bode Miller clears a gate in the first run of the last men's World Cup slalom during the Alpine Ski World Cup finals in Lenzerheide, Switzerland, Sunday, March 13, 2005. Miller finished in 6th place.
AP Photo/Keystone, Eddy Risch
LENZERHEIDE, Switzerland (AP) Bode Miller became the first American in 22 years to win skiing's overall World Cup title.
He finished ahead of his only remaining challenger, Benjamin Raich of Austria, in the season's final giant slalom Saturday to capture the crown. The last non-Europeans to win the overall championship were Americans Phil Mahre and Tamara McKinney in 1983.
"It's been a bit embarrassing it's taken so long. It was getting a bit like the Red Sox," said Miller, a New Englander. "It was a bit embarrassing because it was like a curse."
"The last four years I've had a chance to win an overall," added Miller, who was fourth twice and second in 2003.
Miller finished second in the giant slalom, 0.68 seconds behind Stephan Goergl of Austria, who won with a two-run time of 2 minutes, 10.51 seconds. Raich came in third, 0.80 behind.
Raich's only chance to stay alive for the overall was to win and hope Miller finished outside the top 15. Raich skied before Miller and posted the best time to that point. The Austrian's lead held for four more skiers until Miller ended the suspense by beating Raich.
With only Sunday's slalom left, Miller holds an insurmountable 204-point lead. He has 1,608 points to Raich's 1,404, with wins worth 100 points.
"It's done, it's over," Miller said.
Raich was left with the consolation prize of taking the World Cup giant slalom title, finishing with a three-point edge over Miller, the defending champion in that category.
Raich also won the crystal globe awarded to the season's slalom winner.
"I had a good world championships and now I've got two globes in giant slalom and slalom, so I'm very happy," said Raich, who outperformed Miller at last month's world championships, gaining four medals two golds, a silver and a bronze to Miller's two golds.
"I was trying to win the GS title today, but Benni had an amazing second run and that's what made the separation," Miller said. "I wanted to win the GS obviously, but I won that one last year."
As overall champion, Miller joins such greats as Jean-Claude Killy, Ingemar Stenmark, Marc Girardelli, Pirmin Zurbriggen, Alberto Tomba and Hermann Maier, the Austrian who won his fourth title last season.
Mahre won three times from 1981-83, and McKinney is the only American woman to win. But Miller is nothing like his predecessors.
His rebellious attitude he is threatening to start his own ski tour next season and make-or-break style he finished only one of eight slaloms this season, winning in Sestriere, Italy set him apart.
Raised in a New Hampshire home with no running water or electricity, Miller travels the World Cup circuit in a mobile home.
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