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Bode takes gold in super combined

Posted by Chad Finn, Globe Staff  February 21, 2010 02:32 PM

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bodegold.jpgVANCOUVER, British Columbia -- The lesson, as always: Doubt Bode Miller at your own peril. Because he will never doubt himself.

Miller completed a breathtaking and seemingly improbable run in the slalom to win the gold medal in the super combined this afternoon at Whistler Creekside.

“I skied with 100 percent heart and I didn’t hold anything back,” Miller said. “It’s just awesome. There’s nothing else to say. The way I executed, the way I skied, is something I’ll be proud of the rest of my life.”

Miller posted a combined (downhill and slalom) time of 2 minutes 44.92 seconds. Ivica Kostelic of Croatia took silver (2:45.25), and Switzerland's Silvan Zurbriggen earned bronze (2:45.32).

After being shut out from the podium in Turin, Italy four years ago and receiving much scorn from media and teammates for his casual attitude, Miller has found redemption and then some here. The Franconia, N.H. native now has three medals in these Olympics, adding to his bronze in the downhill and his silver in the super-G.

The super combined is a downhill time plus one slalom run. Miller stood in seventh place after the downhill portion, completing the course in a time of 1:53.91 seconds, which was just 0.73 off the blistering pace of the leader, Norway's Aksel Lund Svindal (1:53.15).

Starting from the 23d spot in the slalom, Miller weaved through the gates in his usual hell-bent style, finishing in 51.01 seconds, which stood up as the third-fasted slalom run of the afternoon.

Miller, who cut back on training before the Olympics and said he pondered retiring, said his legs felt wobbly toward the end.

“My legs started feeling really wobbly,” he said. “I didn’t even feel like I was looking at the gate anymore.”

Such a sensational run seemed unlikely because the slalom hasn't been Miller's strong suit in recent years, and his freewheeling style has often led to him failing to complete races. He was regarded as a superior slalom skier earlier in his career, but his only result in the race on the World Cup circuit this season was a 14th-place finish in Adelboden, Switzerland in January.

But he did win a combined event at Wengen, Switzerland earlier this season. After his downhill run, he was typically confident that he could find his way to the podium.

"If I have a good slalom, I can definitely do it," Miller said. "It's not like I was going to be holding back anyway. But I am going to be going full gas in the slalom."

Did he ever. After completing his spectacular run through the 41 gates, he watched from the finish, smiling virtually the entire time, as the top six racers took a shot at his time. But Svindal and Italy's Dominik Paris, who was second in the downhill, veered off course and didn't finish, and all of the other racers were considerably slower.

American Ted Ligety, the defending gold medalist, had the fastest slalom run and finished in fifth place with a 2:45.82, 0.90 behind Miller.

With Miller's gold, this is the sixth straight Alpine race in these Olympics in which it has medaled, and it is the US's eighth Alpine medal here overall.

And Miller still has two more chances to add to his personal medal count. He competes in the men's slalom Saturday and the giant slalom Tuesday at Whistler.

“I felt awesome about it,” he said. “But still, it’s incredibly emotionally exhausting . . . I’ve got one leg that’s injured and another leg that’s on my boat already,” he said.

Ted Ligety (Park City, Utah) won gold in 2006. Ligety had the fastest slalom run Sunday and finished in fifth place with a 2:45.82, 0.90 behind Miller.

* * *

A few other facts on Miller, as provided by the USOC's Craig Bohnert:

  • His three medals in Vancouver make him the 12th Alpine skier to win three in a single Olympic Winter Games. The record is four (Janica Kostelic Croatia, 2002).

  • He ties the record for most Alpine skiing medals by a man at a single Winter Olympics, and becomes the sixth man to win three Alpine medals at a single Olympic Winter Games.

  • Miller, Chad Hedrick (long track speedskating, 2006) and Apolo Anton Ohno (short-track speedskating, 2006) are the only three American men to win three medals in a single Olympic Winter Games, trailing only Eric Heiden, who established the record with five gold medals at the Lake Placid 1980 Olympic Winter Games.

  • His five career medals moves him to second on the all-time Alpine skiing medal list among men, trailing only Norway’s Kjetil Andre Aamodt, who won eight.

  • This is Miller’s first gold medal. Until this point, he had been the only Olympic skier to have won four or more Alpine medals without a gold.

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