Rewarded for extra work

MADONNA DI CAMPIGLIO, Italy (AP) – Other skiers complain they have no time to train. Giorgio Rocca has made a concerted effort to set aside more time for practice this season, and his plan is starting to be rewarded. The Italian won his second straight World Cup slalom Monday night, boosting his status as a top medal contender for the host country at the Turin Olympics. It was Rocca’s eighth career slalom win, tying him with Gustavo Thoeni for second-place all-time among Italians, behind Alberto Tomba’s 35 victories in the discipline. Rocca skipped Sunday’s super-combined race in Val d’Isere, France, and headed to the Olympic hill in Sestriere for training instead. «That was definitely a key decision. I was very well-rested and I skied fast,» Rocca said. Rocca covered the artificially lit Canalone Miramonti course in a combined time of 1 minute, 32.26 seconds, with thick snowflakes falling during the second run. Benjamin Raich of Austria finished second, 25-hundredths of a second behind, and Kalle Palander of Finland was third, 0.89 back. «It looks like we have a new Tomba,» Palander said of Rocca. Bode Miller straddled a gate in his second run after coming in sixth in the opening leg. The American still leads the overall standings with 378 points, although Norway’s Aksel Lund Svindal finished 11th and gained 24 points to improve his second position to 367. Rocca, who also won the season’s opening slalom in Beaver Creek, Colorado, earlier this month, is atop the slalom standings with 200 points. Another American, Ted Ligety, finished sixth, and with 100 points is second behind Rocca in the slalom standings following his career-best third-place finish in Beaver Creek. Ligety almost fell at one point in his second run, sticking his arms out to regain his balance. Miller, who has finished only two of his last 11 slalom races over the past year but has not skipped a World Cup race since March 2002, complained after his first run that he has no time to train. «There’s not really a lot of time right now,» he said. First-run leader Raich was the final skier of the night and was more than half a second faster than Rocca at the split, but made a minor error just before crossing the finish line. «This is a very important win for Italian skiing. The hardest thing to do now is continue like this,» Rocca said, with a nod to the February 10-26 Olympics. «But I’m not afraid, I prepared myself well this summer.» Rocca had a bit of a tougher time in the opening run under waning sun light. He is partially color blind and wears special goggles to differentiate between the red and blue colored gates. Tied for third after the opening run, he went all out in the second. «I had a lot of fun in the second run. I made a big comeback,» he said, adding that he would try to fit in some more training in Sestriere before the Olympics.