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Park City, Utah Feb. 23, 2002 (AP by Rob Gloster)--Bode Miller, trying to become the first American to win three Olympic medals in Alpine skiing, was second fastest on the opening run of the men's slalom Saturday.

The second run was set for later Saturday.

Miller, who already has silver medals in the giant slalom and the combined event, trailed only France's Jean-Pierre Vidal on the morning run. Vidal finished in 48.01 seconds, and Miller's time was 48.37.

Benjamin Raich of Austria was third in 49.34 and Croatia's Ivica Kostelic--whose sister, Janica, won an unprecedented four Alpine medals here--was fourth fastest in 49.60.

Kostelic leads the World Cup slalom standings this season, followed by Miller and Vidal.

Miller skied first in the morning run, just as he had in Thursday's giant slalom. The top seven skiers in each event, based on World Cup rankings, are allocated the first seven starting spots by lottery.

Starting first can be an advantage in slalom, where the course often deteriorates quickly. But the opening skier has no chance to watch others go down the course and learn from their mistakes.

Miller's run looked effortless. He smoothly twisted among the 58 gates, wasting little movement and leaving little of the snowy plume that trailed many of the other skiers.

``It's just a tough hill. You're seeing a lot of very good skiers struggling,'' Miller said. ``That was more my focus, just to make sure I made it down without any big mistakes that were going to take me out of the race.''

Miller, who needed dramatic final-run rallies to win medals in the giant slalom and the combined event, said he was very pleased with his first-run placing.

``It's perfect. That's what I wanted to do, make it down the hill to be in position with a good second run to win the race,'' he said.

Miller was seeking to become the first U.S. Alpine skier to win three medals in an Olympics--in fact, he was trying to become the first American skier to win three Olympic medals overall.

Copyright © 2000 The Associated Press

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