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MADONNA diCAMPIGLIO, Italy (Dec. 10) — Bode Miller (Franconia, NH) took the first-run lead in a World Cup slalom Monday night and — responding to “the greatest pressure I’ve ever felt in a ski race” — added time on his final run to win his second World Cup race in less than 36 hours, the first slalom win by a U.S. man since 1983. Two other U.S. skiers also broke into the top 25.
Outdoor Life Network will broadcast coverage of the win, which followed Miller’s giant slalom victory Sunday in Val d’Isere, France, Thursday at 9 p.m. EST.
“Just standing there at the top of the world on his final run, I knew I could do it,” Miller, 24, a Carrabassett Valley Academy alumnus who born at home, told American reporters in a 30-minute teleconference call.
Jesse Hunt, U.S. men’s slalom/GS head coach, said, “We’re making history. It’s pretty exciting. … Bode’s skiing with such confidence now.” After Stephan Eberharter of Austriawon the super G and downhill in Val d’Isere to take the World Cup points lead, Miller has won the last two races and climbed right in behind him, just 15 points off the pace of Eberharter, who doesn’t normally ski slalom.
Miller, who started his podium run November 26 by coming out of the No. 54 start to finish second in the second slalom of the Chevy Truck Aspen Winternational, was 0.13 seconds ahead of Italy’s Giorgio Rocca after the first run with Tom Stiansen of Norway sitting third, 0.43 back. Jean Pierre Vidal of France and Austrian Benjamin Raich, the defending World Cup SL champion, completed the top five, another 0.2 out.
He watched on a television at the start as each of his main competitors went through their second run and lit up the hill. “I loved the challenge,” Miller said. “I think that was the most pressure I’ve ever felt in a ski race. I led the first run,” Miller explained, “but I’ve never won a slalom, and then the guys ahead of me on the second run — JP, Stiansen, Rocca — go down and take the lead by a half a second…I thought every one of ’em put down an incredible run. I thought JP’s run was perfect. Then I saw Rocca come down and beat him…”
His winning two-run time was 1:36.01 with Rocca taking second place in 1:36.53. Stiansen was third with a total of 2:36.92. Casey Puckett (Aspen, CO), Miller’s saddlemate on the seven-hour drive Sunday night from Val d’Isere, survived a major error at the bottom of his second run to finish 15th in 1:38.05 while Erik Schlopy (Park City, UT) was 24th in 1:38.64.
“The first run I skied well but I didn’t ski the first run the way I did the second. I was 25th in the first run and it was a little sketchy. I held back in a few spots,” Miller said.
“I felt I could do anything”
“Slalom is a real finicky sport. Small, small things can catch you and take you out of a course. Some of it can just be in your head and if you just get in that zone and can do anything you want, and that’s what happened to me tonight…I felt I could do anything…
“The last few years I’d felt good but things just didn’t go my way. When you get into it, though, things can go your way. The way I skied tonight,” he said, “it was unbeatable. It was heaven.”
He added, “The second run wasn’t ballistic. I could’ve skied faster. I had confidence I could do what I needed to do. I looked at the course and felt great.”
Ski racing is something an athlete works at for years, many without achieving success, “and in the last two days,” Miller said, “everything’s come true — and that’s whathappened to me.”
SL/GS history mini-lesson
The last U.S. slalom victory was by Steve Mahre at St. Anton, Austria, on February 6, 1983. The last back-to-back tech event (i.e., slalom and GS) came the next month when twin brother Phil Mahre won a GS at Aspen March 7, moved around the corner the next day and won another giant slalom at Vail and completed his third consecutive World Cup overall title and his second GS crown by winning March 19, 1983, at Worrld Cup Finals in Furano, Japan. The last back-to-back victories by a U.S. man came less than two years ago when Daron Rahlves (Sugar Bowl, CA) won two downhills in 24 hours on the 1994 Olympic course at Kvitfjell, Norway, north of Lillehammer.
Miller, who was just five when the Mahres were winning, has skied and spoken with the twins at the annual Chevy Truck Return of the Champions, which brings medal-winningAlpine alumni to be with the U.S. Ski Team.
The next men’s races will be a super G Friday and downhill Saturday in Val Gardena, Italy, followed by a giant slalom Sunday in nearby Alta Badia.
CAFE DE COLOMBIA WORLD CUP
Madonna diCampiglio, ITA – Dec. 10
Men’s Slalom (Night)
1. Bode Miller, Franconia, N.H., 1:36.01
2. Giorgio Rocca, Italy, 1:36.53
3. Tom Stiansen, Norway, 1:36.92
4. Jean Pierre Vidal, France, 1:36.99
5. Kalle Palander, Finland, 1:37.71
15. Casey Puckett, Aspen, Colo., 1:38.05
24. Erik Schlopy, Park City, Utah, 1:38.64
Did not qualify for 2nd run: Tom Rothrock, Cashmere, Wash.; Chip Knight, Stowe, Vt.; Sacha Gros, Vail, Colo.
Cafe de Colombia World Cup
Men’s Overall (7 races)
1. Stephan Eberharter, Austria, 340 points
2. Miller, 325
3. Frederic Covili, France, 180
4. Mario Matt, Austria, 175
5. Ivica Kostelic, Croatia, 174
43. Puckett, 34
52. Schlopy, 28
63. Daron Rahlves, Sugar Bowl, Calif., 19
97. Marco Sullivan, Tahoe City, Calif., 4
98. Jake Fiala, Frisco, Colo., 3