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Miller Slowly Improving Ahead of Sochi

Val Gardena, Italy — Bode Miller, improving race by race, appears right on schedule to peak for the Sochi Olympics in February.

After taking a year off to recover from left knee surgery, the two-time overall World Cup champion and New Hampshire native had his best speed finish of this season with a fifth-place result Saturday in the prestigious Val Gardena downhill. That came a day after placing eighth in a super-G to crack the top 10 for the first time in a speed event this year.

Miller would have made the podium if he was just a bit faster on the flats at the beginning of the Saslong course. But he had to deal with cloud cover that limited visibility on the top section when he started. Getting his equipment dialed in after so much time off also has been a factor, he said.

“There’s so many details, you never know what it is that’s really causing the problem,” said the 36-year-old Miller, who has won five Olympic medals, including gold in the super-combined at the 2010 Vancouver Games. “The fact is we just don’t have the whole thing together right now. We’re close, and we’re getting there.”

Canada’s Erik Guay won the race, a year after missing out on the victory because of changing weather that required a shortened course.

Guay clocked 1 minute, 56.65 seconds down a course lined with huge jumps and filled with tricky terrain, making up time over the last few gates to edge Kjetil Jansrud of Norway by 0.12 seconds.

Guay earned his fourth career World Cup victory, along with gold in downhill at the 2011 world championships in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany.

Johan Clarey of France finished third, 0.24 back, and overall World Cup leader Aksel Lund Svindal was fourth.

Miller finished 0.39 back, making up more than half a second on the technical lower section.

Vonn Skies Out, Swiss Skier Wins Downhill

Val D’isere, France — Lindsey Vonn skied out and clutched her knee in pain in the World Cup downhill race won by Marianne Kaufmann-Abderhalden of Switzerland on Saturday.

Vonn, with boyfriend Tiger Woods watching on in the finish area, lost her balance and her left ski went up in the air, putting all her weight on her surgically repaired right knee as she skied off course.

She didn’t fall but grimaced as she pulled up, clutching her knee in a worrying sign ahead of the Sochi Olympics. However, Vonn remains optimistic that she can be ready for Sochi.

“I’m going to stick to a similar plan that I was on before,” she said. “I just need to be more careful of how many races I do.”

Kaufmann-Abderhalden earned her first World Cup victory, finishing in 1 minute, 47.28 seconds and beating defending overall champion Tina Maze of Slovenia by 0.29 seconds.

Vonn needed surgery in February to reconstruct two knee ligaments after a crash at the world championships, and then partially re-tore one of them in November.

Vonn expects to build up her leg muscle and avoid races for a while. She thinks her next race will be “sometime in January.”

NFL Football

Browns WR Done

Cleveland — Davone Bess had a disappointing and shortened first season with the Browns.

The wide receiver was placed on the reserve/non-football illness list Saturday, ending his season with two games left and after he missed practice time this week for “personal reasons.” The Browns announced the move with Bess after traveling to New York to play the Jets today. The team gave no further details for Bess’ absence or his abrupt end to his season.

The Browns acquired Bess in a draft-day trade from Miami in April, and Cleveland quickly signed the six-year veteran to a three-year, $11.5 million contract extension through 2016. The Browns coveted a sure-handed receiver and expected Bess would be both a playmaker and leader. However, he leads the NFL with 14 drops while catching 42 passes for 362 yards and two touchdowns.

Soccer

Liverpool Takes First

London — Luis Suarez scored twice Saturday, leading Liverpool past Cardiff 3-1 and into first place in the English Premier League.

Manchester City is a point behind after winning 4-2 at Fulham despite squandering a two-goal lead. Liverpool and City could be overtaken by Arsenal if the London club defeats Chelsea on Monday.

Manchester United is in seventh place despite beating West Ham 3-1. The defending champions have won two straight after losing their previous two league games.

Bayern Wins Club World Cup

Marrakech, Morocco — Bayern Munich capped the greatest year in club history by beating Raja Casablanca 2-0 Saturday for its first Club World Cup.

The European champion added a record fifth title to its trophy cabinet at the tournament of continental champions to go with the Champions League, Bundesliga, German Cup, and European Super Cup triumphs.

Dante scored early to deflate the Moroccan hosts at Marrakech Stadium, and Thiago Alcantara put the Bavarians in command with his 22nd-minute goal.