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Miller’s Decision Is Good as Gold

From Times Staff and Wire Reports

Bode Miller was veering off the course and realized he had two choices -- slam on the brakes and make the next turn, or keep going in the same direction for what would have been his ninth unfinished race in his last 14 events.

This time, Miller made the right move midway through his super-giant slalom run. He picked up his first victory in six weeks, winning the gold medal Saturday in the opening event of the world Alpine championships at Bormio, Italy.

“I was going the wrong way and I knew I was, but there is no way to change it without giving away too much speed,” Miller said. “So I just tried to make the recovery afterward. That sometimes costs you a lot of time and today it did for sure, but I got away with it.”

Miller got away with it because he was far faster than anyone else through the rest of the course, which he covered in 1 minute 27.55 seconds. It was Miller’s sixth medal in the world championships or Olympics.

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Michael Walchhofer, the only skier faster than Miller at the final checkpoint, won the silver medal and finished 0.14 of a second behind, leading a 2-3-4 finish for Austria. Benjamin Raich, second to Miller in the overall World Cup standings, took the bronze, 0.68 back. He was followed by Hermann Maier, 0.85 behind.

Miller’s U.S. teammate, Daron Rahlves of Sugar Bowl, Calif., the 2001 super-G world champion, was 10th.

Miller, of Franconia, N.H., began the season by winning six of the first 10 World Cup events, but he had not won since. His previous victory was in a slalom at Sestriere, Italy, on Dec. 13.

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Jeremy Bloom, the former Colorado receiver who gave up football to concentrate on skiing and the Turin Olympics, won a World Cup freestyle moguls event at Park City, Utah.

The only American left after the quarterfinals, Bloom had a near-flawless run in the final. Australia’s Dale Begg-Smith finished slightly ahead, but the time difference wasn’t enough to make up for his near slip at the top of the course, giving Bloom a 24-11 win on points.

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Hannu Manninen of Finland won his fifth consecutive World Cup Nordic combined event after building a lead in the cross-country sprint at Sapporo, Japan. Ronny Ackermann of Germany was second and Magnus Moan of Norway was third.

Manninen took a 17-second lead after the 10-kilometer sprint and then had ski jumps of 119.5 meters and 109.5 meters for 226.8 points.

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Irina Slutskaya of Russia won the European figure skating championship at Turin, Italy. Her winning score of 103.69 in the free program gave her a final total of 168.71 points. Susanna Poykio of Finland was second with 158.93 points.

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Boxing

Arturo Gatti retained his World Boxing Council super-lightweight title, stopping “Jesse” James Leija in the fifth round at Atlantic City, N.J.

Gatti landed a hard overhand right on a retreating Leija, knocking him down early in the round. But Leija narrowly beat referee Earl Brown’s count and got to his feet just as Brown got to 10.

Gatti dropped Leija for good with a left hand to the ear that toppled the former 130-pound champion. Leija managed to get to his knees but Brown stopped the fight at the 1:48 mark.

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College Football

Kansas State’s Darren Sproles rushed for 55 yards and a touchdown, Akron’s Charlie Frye threw for 138 yards, including a 22-yard touchdown pass to Northwestern’s Noah Herron late in the fourth quarter, and Ohio State’s Mike Nugent kicked three field goals to lead the North to a 23-13 victory over the South in the Senior Bowl at Mobile, Ala.

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Soccer

With a game-fixing scandal rocking German soccer, the referees who worked Saturday’s Bundesliga matches were switched to different stadiums at the last minute.

Head referee Volker Roth also replaced the four referees who informed the German Soccer Federation about Robert Hoyzer, the referee who admitted Friday to accepting bribes to fix second-division and German Cup games.

Fears by the federation and the referees that the officials would face a hostile reaction in stadiums around the country proved unfounded.

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Miscellany

Greek sprinters Kostas Kenteris and Katerina Thanou attended a hearing in Athens concerning accusations they intentionally missed a drug test before the Athens Olympics.

The athletes were summoned by the Hellenic Assn. of Amateur Athletics after they were temporarily suspended Dec. 22 by the sport’s international governing body.

Kenteris and Thanou withdrew from the Olympics in August after missing doping tests at the Olympic village on the eve of the opening ceremony.

The five-member tribunal is expected to announce its ruling late next week. The sprinters could face a ban of up to two years if found guilty.

Baltimore Raven cornerback Corey Fuller was acquitted of all three gambling and gun charges after being accused of running high-stakes card games at his house. The jury in Tallahassee, Fla., deliberated less than two hours before rejecting two days of prosecution testimony on charges carrying a possible five-year prison sentence.

Due to severe weather conditions affecting Atlanta, the Georgia Force postponed its Arena Football League home opener against the New Orleans VooDoo until this afternoon.


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