Miller Survives Near-Spill, Takes Fifth in Soelden


SOELDEN, Austria Oct. 27, 2002 (USSA)--Olympic silver medalist Bode Miller (Franconia, NH) started the World Cup season with another do-or-die routine Sunday, surviving a lost pole on his first run and a near-spill on his second to finish fifth in the season opening giant slalom on the Rettenbach Glacier. No other U.S. skier made the second run as defending World Cup champion Stephan Eberharter of Austria, three times second in Soelden, edged Frederick Covili for the victory.

"It was really fun," Miller, who skied No. 1 among the 77 racers, said after his survival routine in the gusting winds. "For sure, the second run I gave away a bunch of time on the road (which cuts through the upper section of the course) and probably didn't need to take as much of a risk. But it was encouraging. I took the risk in the right place and it just barely didn't work out."

"When you take a risk, and it's a pretty obvious risk and it doesn't go your way and I still ended up fifth, real close, it's good," he said.

Organizers, who delayed the women's GS for about two hours because of high winds Sunday, moved the start for the men's second run down the mountain to ensure they finished the season-opener. Skiing second, Eberharter led the first run with Miller, who, despite losing a pole when he hooked a gate just below the road, finished with a total time of 1:49.47 with Covili, who won here a year ago en route to capturing the World Cup GS title, second in 1:49.60. Swiss great Michael Von Gruenigen was third, Kjetil Andre Aamodt of Norway fourth and Miller fifth in 1:49.92.

Miller, skiing next to last on the final run in the flip-30 format, said the tricky light just as he attempted to gun his speed, almost cost him on the second run. In Soelden, the first run is held in sunshine but by afternoon, the sun dips behind the mountains and the course is in the shade.

"I had the win right there; it would've been a little roll of the dice to take less risk and try to win," Miller said. "There wasn't any way to make up time on the bottom of the run; I needed to make it up on the top. If I could ski it again, I think I'd take it. It was flat light, so I couldn't see that it was really bumpy."

"It was swirling wind. First run, I got hammered out of the start. Around the second gate I just got slammed, but I made up about five-tenths of a second on the bottom. For sure, the second run I gave away a bunch of time on the road. But, it was fun and it's encouraging," said Miller, who also was fifth a year ago in the Soelden opener as he rebounded from knee surgery. With four World Cup wins (three in slalom, one in GS) plus a pair of Olympic silver medals (GS, combined), Miller posted the best U.S. man's season since Phil Mahre won the overall World Cup title in 1983.

But despite Miller's performance, the seven other U.S. men struggled. Men's Head Coach Phil McNichol and SL/GS Head Coach Martin Andersen said they were encouraged by Daron Rahlves (Sugar Bowl, CA), who despite starting 54th, was bound for a second run before he crashed at the bottom of his run, and Jake Zamansky (Carbondale, CO), who made his World Cup debut.

"They're disappointed. This was quite a wake-up call for them, especially the experienced guys," Andersen said. "They have to get their race head on, and they know it."

"It was a difficult day," McNichol continued. By the end of the first run, it was pain (seven guys not qualifying for a second run) and pleasure (Miller's recovery despite losing the pole midway) all in one sitting."

"I want the guys to process was occurred so they can learn from it. The process of what happened at the race, how you respond, how you process all of it for growth the next time," McNichol added. "This isn't like football where you kick the water bucket over at halftime in the locker room, then go back out and make corrections."

"You just have to be on the hill to see how much better these guys can ski, and they know it. Fortunately, we've goot a couple of weeks to make adjustments and we will make those adjustments."

The U.S. team competes next in the Nature Valley Cup giant slaloms (Nov. 13-14) and slaloms (Nov. 16-17) at Colorado's Loveland Basin Ski Area. The World Cup resumes Nov. 21-24, at the Chevy Truck America's Opening at Park City Mountain Resort, the 2002 Olympic GS venue in Utah. Men and women will each race GS and slalom.

Soelden, AUT Oct. 27, 2002 Rettenbach Glacier
Men's GS
1. Stephan Eberharter, Austria, 1:49.47
2. Frederic Covili, France, 1:49.60
3. Michael Von Gruenigen, Switzerland, 1:49.75
4. Kjetil Andre Aamodt, Norway, 1:49.82
5. Bode Miller, Franconia, NH, 1:49.92

Did not qualify for 2nd run:
Thomas Vonn, Newburgh, NY; Erik Schlopy, Park City, UT; Dane Spencer, Boise, ID; Tom Rothrock, Cashmere, WA; Chip Knight, Stowe, VT; and Jake Zamansky, Carbondale, CODNF-1: Daron Rahlves, Sugar Bowl, CA