PARK CITY, Utah Nov. 21 2003 (AP) — Bode Miller is perfectly comfortable on top in the World Cup. There has been only one race so far and the final standings are a long way off but, as the circuit returns to the United States this weekend, the European favorites are chasing the American skier. Miller likes it that way.
“Coming in at the top is great, really,” Miller said Thursday. “Because you’re the one everyone’s looking at. There is a certain amount of intimidation that goes along with that or I suppose confidence.”
Miller enters the giant slalom on Saturday and slalom Sunday as the top American hopeful at the same site where he won the giant slalom Olympic silver medal nearly two years ago.
Miller opened this season by winning the giant slalom in Soelden, Austria, by a huge margin of 1.12 seconds. He hopes to claim the overall title next spring, but knows hanging on wire-to-wire is unlikely.
“You’re not winning because you’re that much better than everyone else. You’re winning because you’re taking more risks and not making mistakes,” Miller said. “That combination of taking a lot of risks and not making mistakes is pretty tough to maintain over a long period of time.”
Miller has accomplished a lot in the three weeks since Soelden. He had Lasik surgery on his right eye on Halloween, and said he put on a patch and went out in New York as a pirate later that night. It didn’t slow down his training and corrected his 20-40 vision.
Miller said the vision was more of a problem in the speed events rather than the technicals, but expects it to help overall.
“It’s a pretty uncomfortable process, having anyone cutting open your eye, peeling back flaps and lasering you. But it was over pretty quick and it was painless,” Miller said. “There’s still a little bit of adjustments going on. When I ski I notice it a little bit, but overall my vision is a lot better.”
There is more at stake for the U.S. team this weekend than Miller making up for last season. No American man has won a World Cup alpine event in the United States since Bill Johnson won the downhill at Aspen in 1984 after taking Olympic gold in the same event.
Like Johnson and Mahre, Miller is known for his strong will and independence. And like the two Americans who were winning 20 years ago, Miller is producing results.
“You must be open enough to accept that he brings more to the table than I do, which typically is not an easy concept for a coach to swallow,” U.S. alpine coach Phil McNichol said.
Miller and U.S. teammate Erik Schlopy are considered strong possibilities to break the streak at the only U.S. site for technical events.
Unlike the Europeans, the Americans race in front of tiny crowds in their home country. World Cup events don’t draw like the Olympics, even with U.S. skiers gaining ground on the Europeans.
“Potentially the giant slalom could be a real breakthrough. It’s just a little bit of a bummer that I don’t see a whole lot of foresight,” Miller said. “This could be the year where we go 1-2 with three or four Americans in the top 15. I just don’t see the excitement. I just don’t see any anticipation of that.”