Snowbasin, Utah Feb. 12, 2002 (AP by Erica Bulman)--Bode Miller already has matched some of the feats of Phil and Steve Mahre, America's greatest slalom skiers. Now he'll have a chance to do something the brothers never accomplished.
Next week, Miller has a chance to become the first U.S. man to win a slalom or giant slalom medal since the Mahres finished 1-2 in the 1984 slalom. But first, he'll try to win the first U.S. medal in the combined event, which encompasses a downhill and two slalom runs.
The combined was not run from 1952 to 1984 in the Olympics, a span including the Mahres' careers.
The combined event is scheduled for Wednesday, weather permitting.
In Val d'Isere, France, early this season, Miller became the first American skier to win a World Cup giant slalom since Phil Mahre in 1983. The next day, in Madonna di Campiglio, Italy, he won a slalom, the first to do so since Steve Mahre that same season.
Miller, from Franconia, N.H., has wins in four World Cup races this season--three of them in the slalom.
The 24-year-old finished second to Kjetil Andre Aamodt of Norway in a combined event last month in Wengen, Switzerland, which has the longest and most physically demanding downhill on the circuit. Miller didn't even attempt to get into a racing crouch position for the downhill, a task that is too tiring for all but the top speed skiers.
At the world championships last year in St. Anton, Austria, he was fourth after the slalom portion of the combined event, but crashed in the downhill, tearing a ligament in his left knee.
In order to collect his first Olympic medal, Miller will have to keep up with a strong Norwegian pair who have swept five of the last seven Olympic and world championship combination event gold medals.
Aamodt, the winner of both World Cup combined races this season, was the 1994 Olympic silver medalist in the combined event and is a three-time world champion.
His compatriot, Lasse Kjus, was the 1994 gold medalist and won silver in 1998. Kjus will be seeking his second medal of the Salt Lake City Games after winning silver Sunday in the downhill.
With the Olympic combined courses well suited to technical skiers, Miller will have a good chance for a medal
``Slalom racers have a better chance in the combined here, because it's not an easy slalom,'' said reigning World Cup slalom champion Benjamin Raich of Austria. ``Also, nowadays, the slalom skis are so short, if downhillers haven't been practicing on them regularly, it's really tough to manage them.''
There's a new format for the combined this year, with both the downhill and slalom staged on the same day. In previous Olympics, the races were held on separate days.
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