Bode Miller rallies for silver

Feb. 13, 2002 at 10:54 PM
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HUNTSVILLE, Utah, Feb. 13 (UPI) -- American Bode Miller rallied from a nearly disastrous crash in the downhill run Wednesday to claim a silver medal in the alpine combined behind Norwegian Kjetil Andre Aamodt, who then heaped praise on skiing's rising star.

"He has revolutionized the way of skiing as I see it," said Aamodt, who won his record sixth Olympic alpine medal. "Nobody has ever skied that fast like he has in the (giant slalom) and slalom this year. It's amazing."

Miller gave the United States its first medal in the combined since it was introduced to the Olympics in 1988. Tommy Moe had the previous-best finish for an American, placing fifth in 1994.

Aamodt won his second Olympic gold medal with a combined time of 3 minutes, 17.56 seconds -- just .28 seconds better than Miller. Benjamin Raich of Austria took the bronze.

Miller was just 15th after the morning downhill -- 2.44 seconds behind Aamodt's pace-setting time -- but jumped to fifth after his first slalom run down the Grizzly course and to second after his final run, which Raich called perfect.

"This is like scoring six touchdowns in the fourth quarter," said Bill Marolt, president of the U.S. Ski and Snowbarding Association. "It's just consummate Bode."

The second run down the slalom course was a classic. Miller, who seldom competes in the downhill, finished in a blazing 49.73 seconds -- 1.2 seconds faster than his closest competitor.

"I tested myself that second run," said Miller, who won a slalom and giant slalom less than 36 hours apart during the 2001-02 World Cup season. "That was everything I had."

Miller continued his incredible rise through the ranks of alpine skiing. He crashed out in the slalom and giant slalom in 1998 at Nagano, but has won four gold medals during the current World Cup season.

"He's a winner," Marolt said. "He is one of those special kids that comes along and he has it all -- great physical talents, great competitive nature and most of all, he has a passion for the sport."

Miller almost had no chance at hitting the slalom course after nearly crashing on the downhill. He said it took a life-threatening situation for him to stay on his skis.

"That was definitely above and beyond what I could normally do," he said, "because I felt like if I didn't (stay upright), I'd die."

Miller may not be finished at these Olympics. With runs in the slalom and giant slalom to come, he could end up being the most successful American male in Olympic alpine skiing history.

While Miller continued his meteoric rise, Aamodt continued his incredible career, increasing his record total of Olympic and world medals to 16. His first Olympic gold in the combined was especially pleasing.

"It's the happiest feeling you actually can get when you win the combined at the championships because it's three runs," he said. "It's a great feeling to feel you are in control and can master your nerves."

Aamodt won silver in the combined at Lillehammer in 1994, finishing behind countryman Lasse Kjus, who was fifth Tuesday after placing no worse than second in the last two Olympic combines.

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