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Bode-Mania Gains Momentum

LAKE PLACID, N.Y. (AP by John Wawrow)--Bode Miller has made it exciting to follow the men's national ski team again. Now, he's hoping his presence will draw attention to some of his teammates.

That might be tough to do, considering the dominating season Miller wrapped up by winning three titles this past week at the U.S. Alpine Nationals, which ended Tuesday.

Despite his success, Miller expressed concern that American ski fans aren't as knowledgeable about the sport's stars as are their European counterparts.

"It's always disappointing to come back to the U.S. where the knowledge of the sport, the knowledge of the top racers and their abilities, isn't known the way it is in Europe," Miller said. "I mean, over in Europe, any Joe Schmoe on the street could tell you who all of the top-six, seven guys are.

"Not too many here have heard of anyone besides Schlopy and myself."

Miller was referring to friend and roommate Erik Schlopy, who two years ago led the team by recording eight top-10 results in World Cup competition.

While Schlopy enjoyed a rebound this year, and the U.S. nationals provided a glimpse of the potential of newcomers Jesse Marshall and 19-year-old Julia Mancuso, most of the attention went to Miller.

Fans, holding big green foamy hands, inscribed with "Bode," lined Whiteface Mountain slopes to cheer Miller on.

Even the Girl Scouts knew of Miller. One scout selling cookies at a table inside the resort lodge was overheard saying she'd give a box away for a Miller autograph.

Miller didn't disappoint, despite deteriorating snow conditions.

His three national titles were one short of matching Buddy Werner, who won four in 1959. And Miller displayed a knack for showmanship, completing a run backward during a legends event Saturday.

It all followed a season in which he finished second in the World Cup standings and, at last month's Alpine World Championships, became the first American to win three medals.

It's the best performance by an American man since 1983, when Phil Mahre won the overall World Cup and giant slalom titles.

"I think what we saw from Bode is that he is a star," U.S. Alpine Director Jesse Hunt said. "He showed that at the world championships. He showed that at the Olympics. He's showing that on the World Cup. And we're going to continue to see more results from him."

Hunt has much to be excited about. The Miller-led men's program appears to be on the rise after finishing third—behind Austria and Switzerland—in the Nations Cup this past season.

Schlopy, who struggled from mononucleosis and bronchitis last season, rebounded by winning a bronze in the giant slalom at the worlds, and edged Miller to win the giant slalom at the nationals.

Together, Miller and Schlopy could make for an imposing combination next season.

"It could've happened this year or last year or the year before," Miller said, referring to the men having a breakthrough year. "For sure, the potential's there."

Add Marshall to the list, as he had two third-place finishes at the nationals and, a week earlier, earned three top-three finishes, including a win in the giant slalom at the Nor-Am Finals.

Mancuso, weeks after her 19th birthday, led the women, winning three national titles, including the giant slalom in Tuesday's finale. That followed a strong showing in last month's World Junior Championships at which she won the Super G and finished third in the downhill.

"It's definitely good to end on a high note," Mancuso said. "Coming here and doing well against girls who are consistently good on the World Cup, I just have to remember it and bring it into next year."

Copyright © 2000 The Associated Press

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