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ST. MORITZ, Switzerland Feb. 12, 2003 (AP by Nesha Starcevic)–Bode Miller won the giant slalom Wednesday, becoming the first American man to capture three medals in a world championship and the first with two golds.
Erik Schlopy added to an outstanding day for the United States by winning the bronze medal. This marked the first time American men had two skiers among the top three at a world championship.
“Two podiums for Americans _ we’ve been waiting for this a long time and for it to happen at the world championship is amazing,” said Miller, who also won the combined and shared the silver in the super giant slalom.
The Americans have six medals with three races left in the championships, one behind Austria. They have surpassed their previous best of five, set in 1982 in Schladming, Austria. At the 1964 Innsbruck Olympics, which also counted as the worlds, Americans Billy Kidd and James Heuga finished second and third in the slalom.
Hans Knauss of Austria won the silver medal Wednesday.
Miller was fourth after the first run and Schlopy 23rd, but both surged down the sun-drenched Engiadina course in the second leg.
“I am just enjoying it,” an exhausted Miller said after crossing the finish line of the long course. “Today was really tough and really special, to see Erik ski the way he can.”
Schlopy led the race until Miller’s run.
“I must thank Bode, he motivates me,” Schlopy said. “I thought he’d win a medal and so I had to win a medal, too.”
The two Americans, who are close friends, stood together in the finish area to see the end of the race, then clasped hands and hugged.
“It’s the most important medal of my life, sharing it with Erik,” Miller said. “The best race of my life.”
Miller’s total time for the two runs was 2 minutes, 45.93 seconds, beating Knauss by 0.03 seconds. Schlopy was 0.04 behind Miller, losing the silver by 0.01 seconds.
“It was so close,” Miller said. “You’ve got to think that maybe just my shears got me through. Hans skied amazingly well today, he showed he’s one of the best.”
Miller thinks the pile of medals for the Americans might keep growing.
“They are going to sit there and wait for friends to join them,” he said. “I am starting quite a collection in my room right now.”
The 25-year-old skier from Franconia, N.H., became the first American to win the giant slalom world title since Steve Mahre in 1982.
In Val d’Isere, France, last season, Miller became the first American to win a World Cup giant slalom since Phil Mahre in 1983. The next day, in Madonna di Campiglio, Italy, he won a slalom, the first to do so since Steve Mahre that same season.
At the Olympics last winter, Miller gave the United States its first Olympic medal in the giant slalom as well as another silver in the combined, ending an eight-year medal drought for the U.S. men’s Alpine skiers.
Christin Cooper, a commentator for NBC at this event, earned two silvers and a bronze at the 1982 worlds in Schladming.
The 30-year-old Schlopy of Park City, Utah, was nearly a full second (0.98) faster in the second run than the next best, Pallander. Schlopy has never won a World Cup race and his best results are a pair of second places in 2001.
“My second run was a dream,” he said. “I had nothing to lose after the first heat.”
Michael von Gruenigen of Switzerland, the defending champion and World Cup leader in the event, was third after the first run. He skied after Miller and dropped behind. So did Benjamin Raich of Austria, second after the first heat. Only first-run leader Knauss managed to squeeze himself between the two Americans.
“I am really happy with the silver, but to miss the gold by 0.03 hurts a bit,” Knauss said. “On the other hand, I’m only 0.01 ahead of Schlopy, so I also had luck.”
Ales Gorza of Slovenia was a surprising fourth. Aksel-Lund Svindal of Norway was fifth, Kalle Palander of Finland sixth and von Gruenigen seventh.
In other UU.S. results, Daron Rahlves was 16th and Dane Spencer was 21st.
Copyright ¬(c) 2000 The Associated Press