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Snowbasin, Utah Feb. 13, 2002 (USSA)–Bode Miller (Franconia, N.H.) skied the slalom run of his life Wednesday to come back from15th place and claim the sliver medal in men’s combined. It is the first men’s combined medal won by a U.S. skier inOlympic history.
After a rocky day in which a near crash on the downhill placed him in 15th and a slow finish in his first slalom run put inhim fifth, Miller climbed out of the bottom of the pile to win the silver medal.
“That was everything I had out there,” Miller said of his final run. “That’s all. Being able to race that way in front of thehome crowd meant everything to me. I raced as hard as I could.”
Miller’s two slalom runs were the fastest of all competitors. His overall time difference from Norwegian gold medalistKjetil Andre Aamodt was 0.28 seconds, making up considerable time from the downhill when he was down 2.44 seconds.Finishing third in the event was Austria’s Benjamin Raich.
“For me, the Olympics are all about racing hard,” Miller said. “I tried to race hard all day. Things went bad for me in thedownhill. I was pushing hard during the first run of the slalom. I had a lot of time to make up, and the second run reallymade up everything for me.”
After miraculously avoiding a potentially disastrous crash during the downhill portion, Miller was lucky to still be inmedal contention.
“It was sketchy, very sketchy,” said Miller. “Especially when I (almost) fell. It was a little scary because I was headedright towards the coaches.”
Approximately two-thirds of the way down the hill before the Buffalo Jump, Miller lost control and was sliding on one skitowards the coaches’ area when he was able to regain control.
This silver medal may just be the beginning for Miller, who has three Olympic competitions to go: slalom, giant slalom andsuper-G. He has had the most success in the slalom and giant slalom, leaving him plenty of room for more Olympicachievements. He had four victories on the World Cup circuit in the 2001-02 season – three in slalom and one in giantslalom – for the best U.S. finish since Phil Mahre in 1983.
But the most impressive record Miller notched Wednesday, winning the first U.S. men’s combined medal since the eventbegan in 1988. The second best finish was Tommy Moe’s fifth in 1994.
Though Miller competed the slalom and giant slalom in the 1998 Olympic Games, he did not finish and was looking to 2002to make his mark.
The other U.S. competitors were Jakub Fiala (Frisco, Colo.), who took 19th place, and Casey Puckett (Aspen, Colo.), whodid not finish.