Thursday, February 21, 2002
Miller first American man to medal in giant slalom
PARK CITY, Utah -- Bode Miller crossed the finish line all
but sitting on his skis.
Yet another of his daredevil comebacks had catapulted Miller to
his second silver medal of the Salt Lake City Games, sweeping him
past everyone but Stephan Eberharter in Thursday's giant slalom.
Stephan Eberharter won his third medal and his first gold of the Games.
After lacking his usual gusto and placing seventh on the morning
run, Miller went for broke in the afternoon.
"When I crossed the finish line I knew I couldn't have skied
any better," said Miller, who sideswiped the final gate and tilted
sideways before leaning back on his skis.
"I didn't really care how I finished," he said. "I was just
playing around a little bit. I felt like I had a great run and
there just wasn't anything left."
Miller rallied to become the first U.S. man to medal in the
giant slalom, as he had done in the combined event last week.
Second-run comebacks are a tradition among slalom greats such as
Alberto Tomba and Ingemar Stenmark.
"This is maybe the biggest accomplishment of my life, to ski
the way I skied today," Miller said. "I feel like I skied my best
race today. It was only good enough for second, but Eberharter was
one of the best racers in history today. I don't think anyone would
have beaten him."
Eberharter finally emerged from the shadow of fellow Austrian
Hermann Maier by winning his third medal of these Winter Games. He
finished 0.88 seconds ahead of Miller, then fell sideways in the
snow in the finish area and stayed on the ground for several
moments in celebration.
"I was thinking it's done," Eberharter said. "It was my last
chance to win a gold medal, because this is my last Olympic
Eberharter's winning time was 2 minutes, 23.28 seconds. Miller
finished in 2:24.16 and Lasse Kjus won bronze in 2:24.32. Kjus was
a silver medalist last week in the downhill.
Kjus now has five Alpine medals in the Olympics, trailing only
the record seven accumulated by his Norwegian teammate, Kjetil
Andre Aamodt, who also has two medals at these games.
Miller fought to maintain balance as he raced down the slope,
pounding gates with both arms as he weaved down the icy course. He
made up much of his time in the middle of the course, where his
exceptional speed made the difference.
"He has a crazy style in skiing," Eberharter said, "but he's
fast, and that's what counts."
Both Miller's silvers are historic.
Last week, he became the first American man to win a medal in
the combined event, and no U.S. man had finished higher than fourth
in the giant slalom before Thursday.
Since he was only seventh after an uncharacteristically tame
first run, Miller started seventh-to-last among the second-run
He watched from the bottom of the course as one skier fell and
two others failed to match his time. When Kjus also finished behind
Miller, it assured the American of a medal.
Then came Italy's Massimiliano Blardone, who was second on the
morning run but hurt his ankle by slamming into a fence in the
finish area. He didn't come close to Miller, pushing the American
up to at least silver.
Eberharter, the 1998 Olympic silver medalist in giant slalom,
could have played it safe and protected his big lead from the first
run. But his second run was golden, just 0.03 seconds behind
Eberharter, who won silver in the super giant slalom and bronze
in the downhill last week, joins Aamodt (1994), Jean Claude Killy
(1968), Toni Sailer (1956) and Henri Oreiller (1948) as the only
men to win three Alpine medals in one Olympics.
Miller will try to join that three-medal club Saturday in the
slalom, where he's the favorite.
"Today was awesome, two silver medals and still going strong,"
he said. "I raced a great race today. If I can do that and come
down and feel like I raced a really great race in the slalom, I
think I'll have a gold."