SHIGAKOGEN, Japan (AP by Jim Armstrong)--Bode Miller renews his World Cup chase—trying to become the first American to finish first in the overall standings since Phil Mahre in 1983.
Blocking the way is Stephan Eberharter, who holds a slight lead in his bid to retain the overall title. Entering Friday's giant slalom, the Austrian has 1,153 points—93 ahead of Miller.
"I won last year so I don't feel under any great pressure," Eberharter said Thursday. "I'm just going to concentrate on tomorrow's race and not worry about the rest of it."
Traditionally a technical specialist, Miller has a clear advantage over Eberharter in Shigakogen. He is second in the giant slalom title race behind Michael Von Gruenigen of Switzerland.
Miller finished third in last week's giant slalom in Yongpyong, South Korea, and sixth in the slalom.
Eberharter, stronger in the speed events, is 13th overall in the giant slalom standings. He finished 23rd in last week's giant slalom.
Eberharter injured his right knee in December and missed four giant slalom events this season. If not for the injury, Eberharter said the title race wouldn't be this close.
"I couldn't train after the injury and it's been a factor this season," said Eberharter, adding he is no longer in pain.
Shigakogen also features a slalom Saturday and is the next-to-last stop on the World Cup circuit. Lillehammer, Norway, the site of the 1994 Olympics, will host competition March 12-16.
Miller won two gold medals and a silver in St. Moritz, Switzerland, last month to become the first American to capture three medals in a world championship.
The New Hampshire skier practiced Thursday but would not speak leading to Friday's race.
On Saturday, Miller will try to reverse a dismal year in the slalom, once his best discipline.
This season, he finished in the top three in the slalom only once _ second place in Bormio, Italy. Other than that, he crashed or went off course four times and twice finished out of the top 10.
Copyright © 2000 The Associated Press