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Miller Still Undecided about Downhill Race

ST. MORITZ, Switzerland Feb. 7, 2003 (AP by Nesha Starcevic)--Two races, two medals. Can Bode Miller go 3-for-3?

Judging by his performance so far, anything is possible—if Miller decides to race the downhill.

The men's downhill Saturday, the showcase race of the two-week Alpine skiing world championships, would be Miller's next opportunity to increase his medal haul.

"I am going to try and win as many as I can, keep counting," Miller said after winning Thursday's combined event, his first major title. Later, however, he said racing the downhill might not be worth the risk.

If he decides to go ahead, the 25-year-old Franconia, N.H., skier will face formidable opposition, not least in Hermann Maier, the Austrian superstar.

Their only head-to-head so far in the championship is undecided—they shared the silver medal in the super-G.

But Miller went on to win the gold in the combined, an event Maier doesn't compete in.

Known as a gate skier before this season, Miller has made tremendous progress in all events and is now a threat in speed races as well.

Maier got the nod from Austrian coaches to be part of the five-man downhill team although he did not have a fast run practice and although his six-race comeback doesn't include a top-five finish in three downhill events.

But his super-G win on the notorious Streif in Kitzbuehel just before the championships and his silver here were enough for Austrian coaches to put him into the team, despite some grumbling from those skiers left out.

Which coach would make a decision to leave Maier out, anyway?

The two-time Olympic champion from the 1998 Games in Nagano, Japan, and three-time overall World Cup winner may be lacking something in stamina but nothing in sheer will power.

Maier only returned to the slopes on Jan. 14 after 18 months recovering from a motorcycling accident that nearly cost him his right leg.

"I am always under pressure to win a medal," Maier said after the Austrian decision was made.

"Now we have to give our best for Austria and we will do it," the Herminator said.

The Austrians had planned to use one of the three scheduled practice runs as their qualifying run. But when bad weather wiped out one of the practices, they decided to leave to the chief coach to pick the team. With defending champion Hannes Trinkl in the team, the Austrians got to name five skiers to the race, rather than the usual four.

"Maier confirmed his form superbly with his silver in the super-G," said coach Toni Giger.

Maier, who was runner-up to Trinkl two years ago, won't be the only Austrian threatening Miller's quest to keep winning medals.

Stephan Eberharter won the super-G, has five downhill wins this year on the World Cup circuit and is battling Miller for the overall title. Eberharter, long in Maier's shadow, won the overall title last season, as the most consistent skier on the circuit.

There also is Fritz Strobl, the reigning Olympic champion.

Miller could have some tough competition from his own team.

Daron Rahlves, who finished a disappointing 22nd as defending champion in the super-G, has two downhill wins this season and trails only Eberharter in that event's standings.

More importantly, one of Rahlves' two victories came in Kitzbuehel, generally considered the toughest downhill on the circuit.

Copyright (c) 2000 The Associated Press

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