On a day that belonged to Austrians, Bode Miller of Franconia, N.H., found himself in an unusual spot — off the podium after a demanding run in a World Cup super-giant slalom...

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VAL GARDENA, Italy — On a day that belonged to Austrians, Bode Miller of Franconia, N.H., found himself in an unusual spot — off the podium after a demanding run in a World Cup super-giant slalom.

Miller, of Franconia, N.H., came in fourth yesterday in a race won by Michael Walchhofer but maintained his commanding lead in the overall World Cup standings, having won six of 11 races this season.

“In Super-G there is no training run, which makes it tough to know what to do and how hard to push,” Miller said. “Especially this hill, it’s got so much terrain.”

Walchhofer led a 1-2-3 sweep by his countrymen, with Hermann Maier second and Benjamin Raich third. He covered the 1.5-mile course in 1 minute, 31.17 seconds.

Miller’s teammate, Daron Rahlves of Sugar Bowl, Calif., tied for 13th.

Scott Macartney of Redmond placed 30th.

Antoine Deneriaz of France, the two-time defending champion, finished 15th.

Walchhofer’s performance suggested he might be Miller’s biggest threat for the overall title rather than Maier. Unlike Maier, who has not competed in the slalom since a life-threatening motorcycle accident, Walchhofer races in all four disciplines. Miller has been touting Walchhofer all season.

“He’s skiing really well, really solid,” Miller said. “He’s a four-event threat.”

Knauss tests positive

VAL GARDENA, Italy — Olympic silver medalist Hans Knauss tested positive for the steroid nandrolone after a World Cup race last month.

The Austrian Ski Federation said it was informed of the positive test Wednesday, stemming from Knauss’ fourth-place finish in a downhill in Lake Louise, Canada, on Nov. 27. Knauss won silver in the Super-G at the Nagano Games in 1998.

“You know me and I would never have done anything like that on purpose,” Knauss said. “I wanted to come out right now and tell you that.”

After being informed of the positive test by the International Ski Federation (FIS), the Austrian team immediately flew Knauss to Vienna for a test of their own that came out negative, said team media director Robert Brunner.

Knauss, 33, has won seven races in his 14-season World Cup career.

Russian skaters lead

BEIJING — World champion Evgeni Plushenko and Irina Slutskaya won short programs, giving Russian skaters the lead at the Grand Prix Final.

Slutskaya wore pants instead of the conventional dress and performed a routine full of carefree gestures that put her ahead of world champion Shizuka Arakawa of Japan.

Russia also led the ice dance, with world champions Tatiana Navka and Roman Kostomarov ahead of the Tanith Belbin and Ben Agosto of the United States.

“It’s excellent, especially knowing we could have done better,” Belbin said.

Plushenko wasn’t expecting to be at this event. He skated in one competition, the Cup of Russia, and beat series leader Johnny Weir of the United States before making the field when Weir dropped out with a foot injury.

“I have a problem with my knee and I have a problem with my back, but still I can skate,” Plushenko said.


Mark Grimmette of Muskegon, Mich., and Brian Martin of Palo Alto, Calif., won the gold medal in men’s doubles at the North American Luge Championships in Park City, Utah.

Tony Benshoof
of White Bear Lake, Minn., won the men’s singles gold and Courtney Zablocki of Highlands Ranch, Colo., took the women’s singles.