Bode bounces back to win
BEAVER CREEK – Maybe he has grown so used to his inconsistency that the embarrassment of a wasted opportunity simply doesn’t faze him anymore. Maybe it was the pickup hoops followed by sushi and sake the night before.Or maybe Bode Miller just can’t be touched on the Birds of Prey downhill course.American skiing’s box of chocolates, from whom you never know what you’re going to get, is building quite a case for the latter argument. Rebounding from a vast disappointment the day before, Miller won his second Beaver Creek downhill in three years Friday, leading a historic U.S. charge that included two of the three podium finishers (Steve Nyman placed a career-best third), and four skiers in the top 10.The New Hampshire maverick, as usual, took a line nobody could match on a course that is one of the World Cup’s steepest and hairiest, and on a snowy day when visibility was minimal and caution seemed to be the smart choice.
Not even the bizarre – a coach on course slipping on the icy surface and sliding through Miller’s line an instant before he zoomed past at 70 miles per hour – derailed the determined skier.”I was really, really aggressive,” Miller said later. “I took about as aggressive a line as I could manage.”The result was a .15-second advantage over runner-up Didier Cuche of Switzerland, who finished third in Thursday’s super combined downhill run, which Miller won. On Thursday, however, Cuche was disqualified for wearing extra padding on his knee and Miller, in typical go-for-broke fashion, blew out of the slalom despite a 2-second cushion over eventual winner Aksel Lund Svindal.When asked how he managed to forget about his roller-coaster ride less than 24 hours later, Miller said, “Same way you always do. You think about it, you try to analyze it, figure out where you made mistakes, then put it in a little compartment and stick that compartment in the archives for later.”But besides that, once it’s done it’s done,” he said. “You just gotta look at the variables you can control and learn from, and I’m pretty good at that s—.”Miller is accustomed to the Jekyll and Hyde identity that has characterized his ski racing career, so instead of hunkering down in a hotel room after his embarrassing super combined DNF, he did the opposite.”We played a sweet hoops game last night right before dinner, then went out and had sushi – I had about 35 pieces of sushi, a little bit of sake, then went home and passed out,” he said as the media swarmed him in the finish corral.
Only a Bode Miller victory could have upstaged what the rest of the U.S. Ski Team did Friday, putting more skiers in a World Cup downhill top 10 than ever before, highlighted by Nyman’s first career podium finish.Nyman, 24, has long been known as a gifted talent who has yet to fulfill his potential on the World Cup circuit – “He’s one of those special kids,” U.S. Ski and Snwoboard Association CEO Bill Marolt said after Friday’s race. He held the lead for a while before Cuche and Miller bumped him to third.”I couldn’t see much, I just charged as hard as I could,” the 6-foot-4, 215-pound Nyman said after finishing .33 seconds back of Miller’s time (1:46.15).Scott Macartney finished eighth for the U.S., and Marco Sullivan laid down a strong early run that held up for 10th, his best result in an injury-riddled career since taking sixth at the Birds of Prey downhill four years ago.”Four guys in the top 10!” Marolt yelled to a friend. “How cool is that?”Peter Fill of Italy finished fourth, another good result that helped him remain on top of the World Cup overall standings. Austria’s Michael Walchhofer, the two-time defending downhill champion, took fifth on a day that was unusually devoid of Austrians near the top of the results sheet. Even Hermann Maier, who has owned the Birds of Prey in years past, could do no better than 23rd.
Miller’s win was his 22nd career on the World Cup circuit, and with hints of him retiring at season’s end, it may have come on his final trip down the famed course he loves so much – just like now-retired Daron Rahlves did last year, when he relegated Miller to runner-up.Even Marolt, who has clashed with his prodigious talent over the years due to Miller’s yearn to do and say what he wants at all times, couldn’t hide his admiration for Miller after the downhill.”The thing you’re always gonna get with him is his best effort,” the CEO said. “He’s got his way he’s gonna do it, he’s gonna try to win every single run, every single race, and sometimes strategically that might not be the way to try to do it. But that’s his way. We’re not gonna change that.”Standing on top of the podium Friday, Miller feigned a swig of champagne, almost seeming uneasy with the bottle in his hand after so much has been made of his habits in the last year. Then he took a big, deep swig and grinned a very real grin.Standing six deep around the fence, the home crowd loved it.Devon O’Neil can be contacted at (970) 668-4633, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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