Park City, Utah Feb. 22, 2002 (AP by Bob Baum)--They could hardly be more different: The calm, controlled Stephan Eberharter of Austria and the wild American Bode Miller.
In an Olympic giant slalom completed under a brilliant blue sky Thursday, the two disparate skiers were the stars. The 32-year-old Eberharter won the gold medal in his last chance, while Miller came from behind again to collect his second silver of the games.
``It's awesome,'' Miller said. ``Two silvers and still going strong.''
Lasse Kjus of Norway won the bronze to go along with his silver in the downhill.
Still ahead is Miller's best event, the slalom. If he finishes in the top three Saturday, he will be the first American to win three Alpine medals in a single games. In fact, he will be the first U.S. skier to win three Olympic Alpine medals in a career.
Miller, of Franconia, N.H., is already the first American man to win a medal in an Olympic giant slalom.
``He has a crazy style in skiing,'' Eberharter said. ``But he is fast, and that's what counts.''
Miller, who came from far back last week to win the silver in the combined, was the first skier down the hill Thursday and was uncharacteristically cautious. Entering the second run, he was 0.91 seconds behind Eberharter.
Miller attacked the second run, careering down the hill on the edge of his skis with his usual abandon. Just before he crossed the finish line, he squatted so low he almost sat on his skis.
``I was just playing around a little bit,'' he said.
Miller's time of 1 minute, 11.27 seconds, was the fastest of all the skiers in the second run, and he waited to see what the others would do.
Austrians Benjamin Raich and Christoph Gruber weren't fast enough. When Kjus came down and finished 0.16 seconds behind Miller, the American knew he had at least a bronze.
Unheralded Italian Massimiliano Blardone had the second-fastest time in the first run, but he crashed into the fence at the finish and injured his right ankle. He finished far out of medal contention, and Miller had the silver.
Miller said he doesn't mean to make a habit out of coming from behind.
``It's not the plan at the beginning of the day,'' he said. ``Maybe it's a little easier being able to gauge when I'm in the finish area after the first run what I have to do.''
Eberharter, angry at a mistake that cost him a gold medal in the super giant slalom, was too far ahead for Miller to catch. His second run was only 0.03 seconds slower than Miller's.
``And I was taking all kinds of risks while he hardly took any,'' Miller said. ``I don't think anybody could have beaten him today.''
Eberharter, who turns 33 Sunday, became the fifth Alpine skier to win three medals in an Olympics, and only the second Austrian. The other was Toni Sailer in 1956. Eberharter is the only Austrian to win four Olympic medals in his career.
His triumphant Olympics caps a season in which he already has won nine World Cup races. He also finally escaped the shadow of flamboyant countryman Hermann Maier, who is not at the Olympics because of injuries from a motorcycle accident.
When he crossed the finish line, Eberharter looked at the scoreboard, then fell to his back and rolled to his side in the snow.
``There was no more pressure. All the pressure was off me,'' he said. ``Finally, I had gotten the gold. It was my last chance to get one, so it was really, really great.''
Copyright © 2000 The Associated Press