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PARK CITY, Utah (Feb. 23) – Sitting in second place after his first run in Saturday’s slalom, Bode Miller (Franconia, N.H.) lost an edge and skied wide early in his second to put him out of medal contention. Though he did slide down to finish, he ended over 11 seconds after gold medalist Jean-Pierre Vidal of France.
“It was high speed coming off that flat and it’s just really icy and bumpy and I was going fast,” Miller said, who won the silver in combined and giant slalom. “I was carrying a ton of heat there. It’s one of those things where it could have gone either way. I can’t tell you how many of those I’ve had in my career on the downhill and combined. You put yourself in the position (to medal), then it’s sort of up to Mother Nature, luck and your equipment. I almost had it, just couldn’t quite hold it.”
France also took second in the event as Sebastien Amiez skied out of 11th to claim the silver. Alain Baxter took the bronze for Great Britain, winning his country’s first alpine medal in Olympic history.
Miller daringly went out hard on his second run, unwilling to settle with a safe silver-winning ski. He said he skied hard because ski racing offers no guarantees, even when sitting in second by nearly a one second lead.
“If I could guarantee myself silver if I backed off, maybe I would have done that, but there’s no guarantees,” Miller said. “If I back off and come down into fifth place I would have been really disappointed. Yeah, I’m a little disappointed, but I made it down the course. I came out there and I skied hard and I was going for it. I was going for the win.”
The U.S.’s top finish was Chip Knight (Stowe, Vt.) in 12th place. He sat in 17th after the first run but was able to ski back into the top-15 despite the poor conditions.
The relentless slalom course at Deer Valley took down numerous skiers throughout the day. In the first run, 26 skiers did not finish, and among the top-15 heading into the second, five didn’t make it to the bottom.
“This hill, the conditions were similar to Schladming,” Knight said, in regards to where he skied his best results ever. “It felt like hell but you had to fight the whole way down. It’s that kind of hill. It was so warm the snow was peeling away and my boots were soft so I had to ski the rut.”
Tom Rothrock (Cashmere, Wash.) was in 15th place heading into the final run, but was the first skier of the second group to be humbled by the difficult course. He stumbled and missed a gate, skiing off course.
“It was a good opportunity to be here,” Rothrock said. “I just went for it and it didn’t work out. (The fans) were really encouraging. I was definitely excited by their support.”
Erik Schlopy (Park City, Utah) skied a day similar to Knight, sitting in 21st after run one and finishing in 14th.
Men’s slalom marks the final alpine event of the 2002 Olympic Winter Games, with just one skiing event to go, the women’s 30km Classical cross country race on Sunday.
Miller’s silver in the giant slalom captured the 10-medal mark for the U.S. ski team, the highly publicized goal heading into the Games.
“For us, this is a team sport,” said Bill Marolt, President/CEO of the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association. “It’s a family. We win together; we lose together. We got our 10 medals and so, as a company, we achieved our goals. Some didn’t come in ways that we maybe thought, but that’s the way the sport is.”
2002 OLYMPIC WINTER GAMES
February 23, 2002
Deer Valley, Utah
1. Jean-Pierre Vidal, France (1:41.06)
2. Sebastien Amiez, France (1:41.82)
3. Alain Baxter, Great Britain (1:42.32)
12. Chip Knight, Stowe, Vt. (1:44.86)
14. Erik Schlopy, Park City, Utah (1:45.21)
25. Bode Miller, Franconia, N.H. (1:52.79)
DNF Tom Rothrock, Cashmere, Wash.u