‘Do it like Bode’
BEAVER CREEK – There is no team in men’s ski racing more proud or distinguished than the Austrians. They have dominated the World Cup circuit over the years, winning everywhere, including, in a large way, Beaver Creek. Not surprisingly, one of their own won Thursday’s Birds of Prey super G. Another in red took third. Sandwiched in between was Bode Miller, recently America’s most dominant athlete. None of this was a shocker. Sure, it was an upset of sorts that Stephan Goergl, a 26-year-old career middle-of-the-packer, topped the podium – instead of one of his more famous teammates, like Hermann Maier or Fritz Strobl. But the fact is, if you’re good enough to be on the Austrian national team, it will never be all that unexpected if you win.The surprise portion of Thursday’s show arrived after the race, when Georgl told us how he’d won.”I tried to attack 100 percent,” he said. “It’s a funny thing. You have to attack and do it …” He paused. “Do it like Bode.”
Georgl laughed after he said this. Then he shrugged, as if to reassure himself it was OK to go on.”I like his style of skiing,” Georgl continued. “His easy way of going. That’s a really good thing (to watch) for all of us. I think today, I did it the same.”This is what it has come to? The only chance the Austrians have at winning is if they ski like an American? I can hear the outrage in Vienna now, echoing through the city like word of the plague.To be sure, however, this new strategy Georgl speaks of is more a product of Miller’s currently untouchable skiing than any dropoff on the part of his opponents. Thursday’s second-place finish was the first time this season Miller hadn’t won. He had stood on top of the podium after all three races going into Thursday – a giant slalom in Soelden, Austria, and a super G and downhill last weekend at Lake Louise, Alberta.
He won the GS by more than a second, an astonishing margin for skiing’s highest level. The three-race win streak – which made him just the fourth skier in history to win races in all four disciplines on the men’s World Cup – has been the talk of the tour.In that regard, the shock of Georgl’s statement is softened. Still, I wonder when the rest of America will take notice of the domination.ESPN’s SportsCenter, our country’s bread-and-butter when it comes to hitting the big time, continues to ignore it.In fact, Miller, like he has in the past, got a little fired up when I asked him about this on Thursday.”I won a bunch of races,” he said. “I was double world champion in 2003, and I don’t think I made SportsCenter one time. It’s unfortunate for the sport, but it doesn’t bother me.”
If there is a notion out there that ski racers, even the best ones, aren’t good enough overall athletes to warrant the attention, there shouldn’t be. Miller beat a host of other pro stars – including NFL specimen LaVar Arrington – to win the made-for-TV “Superstars” competition a few years back, and his propensity to ski with abandon only adds to his growing legend.Thursday’s second place came because Miller made a tiny mistake on the top of the course, floating a bit too much off a jump about 30 seconds into his run. He was .66 of a second back midway through his run, but made up two thirds of that over the final 15 gates or so. (As he eloquently put it, “I made up a s—load on the bottom half.”) He crossed the line .24 back of Georgl, who later said he used “a perfect run” to win.Miller – who didn’t even finish any of the three Birds of Prey races a year ago – wasn’t bummed that the streak ended, and said he would’ve been just as happy if he’d gotten fourth with the mistake he made at the top. “My streak wasn’t going to go on forever,” he said.He now holds a staggering 212-point lead in the World Cup overall standings, with 380 points to Maier’s second-place total of 168. If he keeps it up and wins the overall title, something no American has done since 1983, who knows …The proud Austrians might not be the only ones taking notice. Soon there could be everyday Americans wanting to “Do it like Bode” – or at least knowing that such a phenomenon exists.Devon O’Neil can be contacted at (970) 668-3998, ext. 231, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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