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Park City, UT, Feb. 21, 2002 (AP by Rob Gloster)–Another dramatic final run, another medal for Bode Miller.
Miller captured his second silver of the Salt Lake City Games on Thursday, racing past all but one of the leaders on the final run to become the first U.S. man to medal in the giant slalom.
The only skier Miller failed to catch was Stephan Eberharter, who finally emerged from the shadow of fellow Austrian Hermann Maier by winning his third medal of the Winter Games.
“When I crossed the finish line I knew I couldn’t have skied any better,” said Miller, who was virtually sitting on his skis as he ended his run. “I didn’t really care how I finished. I just knew I didn’t have anything left.”
Miller finished 0.88 seconds behind Eberharter, who fell sideways in the snow in the finish area and stayed on the ground for several moments in relief at finally having won a gold after being favored in three events.
“I was thinking it’s done,” Eberharter said. “It was my last chance to win a gold medal, because this is my last Olympic Games.”
Eberharter’s winning time was 2 minutes, 23.28 seconds. Miller finished in 2:24.16 and Norway’s Lasse Kjus won bronze in 2:24.32. Kjus was a silver medalist last week in the downhill.
Each of the medals Miller has won at these games has been historic.
Last week, he rallied from far behind to become the first American man with a medal in the combined event. No U.S. man had finished higher than fourth in the giant slalom before Thursday.
Miller started the second run in seventh place after skiing without his usual gusto Thursday morning. But, as in the combined event, he swept past several competitors on the final run.
Miller fought to maintain balance as he raced down the slope, pounding gates with both arms as he weaved down the icy course. He made up much of his time in the middle of the course, where his exceptional speed made the difference.
“This is maybe the biggest accomplishment of my life, to ski the way I skied today,” Miller said. “I feel like I skied my best race today. It was only good enough for second, but Eberharter was one of the best racers in history today. I don’t think anyone would have beaten him.”
Eberharter, who won silver in the super giant slalom and bronze in the downhill last week, joins Kjetil Andre Aamodt (1994), Jean-Claude Killy (1968), Toni Sailer (1956) and Henri Oreiller (1948) as the only men to win three Alpine medals in one Olympics.
Miller will try to join Eberharter in the three-medal club Saturday in the slalom. He’s the favorite in that event.
“Today was awesome, two silver medals and still going strong,” he said. “I raced a great race today. If I can do that and come down and feel like I raced a really great race in the slalom, I think I’ll have a gold.”
Men’s Giant Slalom
February, 21, 2002, Park City, UT
1. Stephan Eberharter, Austria, 2:23.28.
2. Bode Miller, Franconia, N.H., 2:24.16.
3. Lasse Kjus, Norway, 2:24.32.
4. Benjamin Raich, Austria, 2:24.40.
5. Christoph Gruber, Austria, 2:24.41.
16. Dane Spencer, Boise, Idaho, 2:25.68.
19. Thomas Vonn, Newburgh, N.Y., 2:26.46.
DNF: Erik Schlopy, Park City, Utah.