Miller, Aamodt Favored in Combined

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St. Moritz, Switzerland (Feb. 5) AP -- Bode Miller has a silver medal from the combined event at the Salt Lake City Olympics.

Norwegian veteran Kjetil Andre Aamodt is the reigning Olympic combined gold medalist, a three-time defending world champion and a four-time World Cup combined winner.

Somehow, Miller still is considered as much a favorite as Aamodt at the world championships.

The two will headline Thursday's combined race. Both a downhill and two runs of a slalom will be staged the same day, a format used at the 2002 Olympics, but never before at worlds.

Miller will try to finally turn the tables on Aamodt, who has edged him for the win in the combined three times. The Norwegian ace nipped Miller at the Olympics and in Wengen earlier this season. He also finished just ahead of the American at the same Swiss resort last year.

Quiet, unassuming, and always a contender, Aamodt has been one of the most versatile skiers to ever hit the slopes, reaping in a men's Alpine record 17 Olympic and world championship medals.

Since Aamodt burst onto the world scene as a double junior world champion in 1990, he's won a world championship medal in every discipline and has been in the World Cup top 10 for 10 straight years.

Just as quiet but hardly unassuming, Miller has shown the same kind of promise as Aamodt did in his early days.

Previously known as a technical specialist, Miller emerged as a strong all-around skier this season when he began competing seriously in the speed events.

Miller and Aamodt, along with Lasse Kjus, are the only skiers to compete in all four disciplines. The rest are specialists, either best in the speed events - downhill and super-G - or the technical events of giant slalom and slalom.

Aamodt was the 1994 World Cup overall champion. The American is fighting for this year's title with Austrian Stephan Eberharter, who currently sits just eight points ahead of Miller.

"Aamodt has been a force in the combined for a long time," Miller said. "He's a fantastic all-rounder. He has more experience on this hill. I've never raced a downhill here."

"But I'm definitely faster in the speed events this year, especially in the downhill."

While he did ski in the World Cup giant slalom in St. Moritz last year, finishing fourth, Miller has no speed experience on the hill.

In addition, Miller will have to quash memories of his accident at the worlds in St. Anton two years ago, when he crashed in the combined downhill, tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee.

The strongest competition for Aamodt and Miller might come from Austrian Michael Walchhofer. He won the combined event in Kitzbuehel, Austria, the toughest downhill on the tour, ahead of Norwegian youngster Aksel Lund Svindal and Switzerland's Didier Defago. Miller finished fifth in the event after a disastrous rodeo-like slalom leg. Aamodt failed to finish the second leg of the slalom.

Kjus, who finished third behind Aamodt and Miller in the combined in Wengen this year, is always a threat. The Norwegian is a former world and Olympic champion in the discipline.

Copyright (c) 2000 The Associated Press