Bode strikes gold at Worlds
After three races, the U.S. team – which has medaled in an unprecedented three straight races – has four medals, while Austria has three and Norway two.NBC will televise Worlds coverage Saturday from 2-4 p.m. and Sunday 11:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m. All times are Mountain.In recording the closest combined victory in any World Championships, Miller had a three-run time (one downhill and two slaloms) of 3 minutes, 18.41 seconds. Lasse Kjus of Norway, who led after the downhill, was the silver medalist in 3:18.48. Norway’s Kjetil Andre Aamodt, the Olympic gold medalist and back-to-back-to-back World Championships combined gold medalist, took third in 3:18.54.Miller said being on the podium with the two Norwegians was akin to being on the super-G podium Sunday with Austrians Stephan Eberharter an Hermann Maier.”These guys have been dominant in the sport,” Miller said.He’s the first U.S. man to win the combined gold medal since Billy Kidd won at the 1970 championships in Val Gardena, Italy. In 1980, when the Olympics doubled for the last time as the World Championships, Phil Mahre won the combined gold at Lake Placid.Coach says consistency pays offFog and gusting winds made the downhill portion of the combined a total crapshoot for some racers. Miller, coming out of the fog at the top of the course, clipped one panel, got thrown off course on a couple of other spots and was 17th behind Kjus, 2.95 seconds back.He conceded it would be unlikely for him to medal, “but I just kept on trying.””The key in combined is to ski consistently,” U.S. men’s head coach Phil McNichol said. “And Bode did just that. It’s another sign of his maturing – he didn’t try to win, try to overcome three seconds on that first run.”Miller shaved that margin in half during the first slalom run and whittled away the rest in his final run.As he hit the finish area and saw he was first – with Aamodt, Austrian Benjamin Raich and Kjus still to run – Miller gave a visible sigh of relief. Aamodt couldn’t match him. Miller had the bronze. Raich skied out; Miller was the silver medalist – and Kjus couldn’t catch him. Gold for Miller and the crowd went wild. He sunk to his knees, lowered his head and re-gathered his thoughts.”It’s not so much I thought I didn’t have a chance. Like I’ve said, it’s combined,” Miller told a packed press conference. “In Kitzbuehel, both Kjetil and I blew out in the slalom, both in the second run of slalom, so I’m well aware of how precarious the lead can be.”But there was no question in my mind that I was gonna still go for it. I was still going for the win. I wasn’t skiing for second or third place today, and, in the end, I think that’s probably what got me there.”Gold-medal rebound from ’01 Worlds crashMIller tore ligaments in his left knee two years ago when he crashed in the downhill portion of combined at the World Championships in St. Anton, Austria. A year ago, Miller made a near-miraculous save during his combined downhill and ate-up the final run of slalom as he went on to collect the silver medal behind Aamodt.Thursday, he said there were many similar feelings from a year ago.”Actually, it’s a really similar feeling last year and this year,” Miller said. “That feeling is the same whether you’re on either side of the hundredths (of seconds). Obviously, it’s great to win the world championship, but if you put down that kind of skiing, it’s awesome either way.”With a delegation of his family plus girlfriend Lizzie Hoeschler and her family in the stands, Miller said the day ran a gamut of frustrations and joy. The gold medal, though, heals a lot of pain.Asked what he thought about as he sank to the snow in victory, he said, “Just thinking about I was feeling and what a battle it had been that day. You know, people discount the combined as a tough event because, I think, they see the downhillers not ski the best slalom or they see the slalom skiers not ski the best downhill but, for the top guys, the guys who can ski both to a competitive level, it’s the toughest event out there – emotionally and physically and mentally. It’s abusive all day.”Pinpointing downhill mistakes is trickyMiller came out of the foggy starthouse and felt he’d had a solid downhill, despite a couple of rocky points. He was surprised to find he was nearly three seconds off Kjus’ pace, but he couldn’t pinpoint where he lost that kind of time.”There’s no telling. It’s downhill. It could’ve been a gust of wind at the top. It could’ve been that I just got off-line in just the wrong spot and hit some soft snow,” Miller said. “There’s lots of loose snow up there. It can be as simple as missing the timing in one turn.”But, when the battle was done, Miller, who has a good sense of ski racing history, said, “I felt like when I was on the podium with Hermann and Eberharter in the super-G, I was sharing the podium with the champions of the sport. These guys have been untouchable in combined for the last eight years, or it seems like forever for me.”He pointed to the Norwegians’ record: Aamodt with 11 World Championships medals and seven from the Olympics, while Kjus has Worlds medals and five Olympic medals.”They’re great champions,” Miller said. “I’ve been really honored at this Championships to share the podium with the guys I have.”Jake Fiala (Frisco), who finished 14th in the downhill, and Daron Rahlves (Sugar Bowl, Calif.), who was 23rd, used the combined downhill as a chance to get one more training run on the Corviglia course. Marco Sullivan (Squaw Valley, Calif.), who fought headwinds and fog, which rolled into just after Kjus and Aamodt raced, skied off-course midway down.Both men and women are scheduled for a final training run Friday. The men race the downhill on Saturday.
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Jeff Shiffrin, with his wife, Eileen, made the Vail area their home decades ago, and together raised Mikaela and Taylor Shiffrin, who was a member of the two-time NCAA Champion University of Denver Ski Team.