Park City, UT Feb. 20, 2002 (AP by Erica Bulman)–Bode Miller will try to make more history Thursday, this time in the giant slalom.
Miller ended an eight-year medal drought for U.S. men Alpine skiers by rallying with a dramatic final slalom run to capture silver in the combined. Now he’ll try to become the first U.S. male medalist in the giant slalom.
“For me, the giant slalom is the biggest race,” Miller said. “That’s the biggest event in skiing. I think it has always been a strength of mine since the beginning.”
Miller says his greatest challenges likely will come from World Cup giant slalom leader Frederic Covili of France, Lasse Kjus of Norway and overall World Cup leader Stephan Eberharter of Austria
“There are so many guys who are fast,” he said. “I know I have a lot of speed in GS, but I come into this race not being able to guess a favorite.”
Miller has victories in four World Cup races this season–one in the giant slalom and three in the slalom.
In Val d’Isere, France, early this season, Miller became the first American skier to win a World Cup giant slalom since Phil Mahre in 1983. The next day, in Madonna di Campiglio, Italy, he won a slalom, the first to do so since Steve Mahre that same season. He won a second slalom in Switzerland and a night slalom in Austria in January.
Covili, leader of the World Cup giant slalom standings and winner of two races this season, is one of the main contenders for gold. Eberharter is aiming for gold after settling for bronze in the downhill and silver in the super giant slalom.
Eberharter proved himself a serious threat for gold after winning the giant slalom in St. Moritz, Switzerland, and climbing into second in the discipline rankings in the last World Cup race ahead of the games.
Kjus will be looking for his second medal after finishing second in the downhill.
Conspicuously absent from the games, and in particular the giant slalom, is double 1998 Olympic champion Hermann Maier, still recovering from a motorcycle accident.
Even if Miller fails in the giant slalom, he still would have an excellent chance Saturday in the slalom. He hopes to become the first American man to win an Olympic medal in the slalom since the Mahres finished 1-2 in 1984.
But if given a choice, Miller would take a victory in the giant slalom.
“I would choose the GS,” Miller said. “I think the better man wins in GS more often. I think slalom is the easier sport to dominate. In GS you can’t really do that, there’s just no room.
“I have a better chance in slalom because my speed puts me ahead of those guys. I can make mistakes and still win.”