Val d'Isere, France Dec. 9, 2001 (AP)--Bode Miller (Franconia, NH), who went down last February at World Championships with a torn ACL in his left knee, collected the first World Cup giant slalom victory by an American man since Phil Mahre's final World Cup win - by .01 over Max Julen of Switzerland at World Cup Finals March 19, 1983 in Furano, Japan, Sunday (Dec. 9) in Val d'Isere, France. Miller overcame a near-spill at the top of his second run to edge French racer Frederic Covili by .02 with World Cup leader Stephan Eberharter, who'd won Friday and Saturday in Val d'Isere, in third place. As U.S. Coach Jesse Hunt noted cryptically, "Bode stole the show." Miller took off shortly after a press conference for a seven-hour drive to Madonna diCampiglio, Italy, for a night slalom Monday, but he spoke with USSA's Paul Robbins before hitting the road. It sounds like, in typical Bode-style, you were attacking right out ofthe start on that second run.
"I was fired-up, anyway, but going down on my hip made it urgent that Iski well. It was my left hip...or maybe my right -- I'm not sure now,it was pretty quick, about 20 meters. We talked about 38 meters inSoelden Austria, where he nearly went down coming out of the start inhis first run during the first race of the season and this wasquicker."
"It was a cranky course, really weird, but I was trying to attack it. Iboosted a turn right before I went down, the best turn I've ever made,but my tips went over too far and I didn't get enough purchase. But, atthe same time, that's not the first time it's happened, so I'm prettywell prepared to do something about it."
"So I got up quick and got going again. I've recovered from a lot worse.I was pushing it to the limit."
You've had some practice in riding that edge, that high-wire betweenstaying in and skiing out.
"Oh yeah. I feel like I have a different gear. Covili skied great, noquestion, but at the same time if I had a run where I didn't mess up, hecan have a great run and I'll take him."That course, though, was about as bad a course for you can get for me.I was really pushing it, pushing myself and that's when it startsgetting ragged. I have that gear where I'm going fast but it's stillpretty smooth. It comes from pushing myself in training, pushing myselfharder, making mistakes, figuring out how to ski at that level,anticipating mistakes and learning how to respond in a tough, quicksituation."I ski like that all the time and a lot of guys never ski like that. Themore you ski like that, the more you get used to it. You learn toadapt."
Go fast or go home. Living fast...
"Yeah, there's some living on the edge...but skiing is like that -- onthe edge."
You're in third place between runs, .32 back of Eberharter, .2 offCovili. What are you thinking of, that you have 'em right where you want'em?
"I was close enough. I figured if I skied an even course, I could beatthem. I mean, Von Gruenigen Swiss great Michael VonGruenigen, fifth inthe first run is ridiculously good, so's Swedish skier Fredrik Nyberg.11 back of Miller after the first runand Austrian Christoph Gruber7.3 behind Miller. But they're running on the same course -- ofcourse, Covili the Soelden winner is skiing so good on anything now.But I was confident between runs; I felt I could do it."Of course, I was confident yesterday, too, when he finished 32nd indownhill. Confidence doesn't mean anything, though, if you can't getthat result. I felt I could take 'em."
Some rain, a couple of nights of cold, so the conditions were prettyfair for everyone, right?
"Yeah, they were pretty good conditions all around. It was grippy at thetop, icy at the bottom. I didn't seem to do that bottom too well. I losta bunch on the bottom, really lost some time to Covili on the bottom ofthe second run."
You said in Aspen, after finishing second in that second slalom, youweren't skiing 'naturally' for you, wwhich was attacking, but you neededto get a result, needed to boost your confidence a bit so you had to skiunder a little control. Did you take anything from Aspen into Vald'Isere?
"First run I definitely held back. There was no reason to risk it then.I think I can ski consistently and be with these top guys. I made amistake at the top, and it was icy at the bottom and I slid a couple oftimes on the ice but still was third with just three-tenths to make up,so second run I pretty much let it go.
"Slalom is a pain in the ass to let it go -- there's such a small marginof error -- but in GS, if you're on it, you can get back up and getgoing again. So, slalom, if you want to let it go, you have to bewilling to accept defeat; today, I wasn't going to accept loss of a DNFDid Not Finish."
Was there any plus because you ran the two speed events, so maybe youhad a better feel for the icy bottom part of the course?
"I wasn't putting a lot of pressure on myself for downhill and super G.If I'd done well, it would've been a bonus, but it was the first timeI'd been on my new downhill skis, first time for my super G skis, too.Both pairs were brand new, so I just wanted to get some miles on it andI wasn't expecting too much."But, yeah, I came into it the GS with a good attitude. I felt in theGS and in slalom I can ski 100 percent right now."
Was there any benefit to training with the Austrians during thepreseason?
"We didn't train with the Austrians very much, maybe just in the fall --one day in slalom, another day in GS. We trained with them in a timetrial and I was beating them. But winning isn't about beating them in atime trial, although I felt confident after skiing so well in that timetrial. But things are wide-open; it's everybody's race
So, how's it feel to win? Has it hit yet?
"Oh, it settled in right away. It wasn't exactly, 'Oh, my God, it's amiracle.' It was more like, 'Well, I finally did it.' I mean, I've beenworking at it practically my whole life. I didn't have any doubts, itwas just a matter in my mind of when I'd do it. I've been really capableof doing it the last couple of years ... I'm just glad to do it."
But sounds like you've made your peace with yourself on that riding theedge, all-out attacking each race.
"If I have one strength, I think it's being able to accept defeat in theoverall scheme of going for that victory. I've certainly had practice ataccepting that."
So, does this turn up the heat on expectations for Bode Miller to medalat the Olympics in February?
"Y'know, I'll be going for it in Salt Lake. But It's really one day, onerace. I'm gonna go in there and ski hard, and if I ski hard, I think Icould medal. I have that ability. But it's just one day."
Phil Mahre got the last GS win by an American man in 1983. You were fiveyears old. Did you know who he was and did you have any thought aboutWorld Cup racing?
"Oh yeah, I knew of him from winning on the World Cup. And the next year'84 he won at the Olympics. And I was racing then. I was on my way. Imay not have been thinking about the World Cup but I was thinking aboutthe Olympics."
So, maybe the best part of this win is it's just the start, not the endof any line.
"Definitely. This is only the start for me. I feel like I have plenty ofthese races left in me."
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