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America's Bode Miller has world begging for more



Published: Tue, February 8, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



Popular skier could become first American since 1983 to win overall crown.

BORMIO, Italy (AP) -- Bode Miller has turned the Alpine Skiing World Championships into his personal playground.

Hailed by Italian newspapers as the "Cowboy of the Snow," he already has two golds and the chance for more medals in the next few days. In the only event he failed to win, he lost a ski -- and then thrilled fans by sliding down the course on just one ski.

"Bode, we're crazy for you," proclaim banners draped on homes here.

Miller came into the world championships leading the World Cup standings, vying to become the first American since Phil Mahre in 1983 to win the overall title. And his dominance in Alpine skiing has grown during the past 11/2 weeks in Bormio.

Miller shocked the powerful Austrian team by winning gold in the super-giant slalom to open the world championships. And he won the downhill this weekend, with U.S. teammate Daron Rahlves second.

"Obviously I'd love to have as many medals as events I'm skiing in," Miller said. "I know myself. When it comes to the big day I don't mess it up. If I do mess it up, it's because I was going for it."

Always making news

Even when he messes up, Miller is still the story.

In Thursday's combined event, he lost a ski just 15 seconds into the morning's downhill leg, but turned catastrophe into comedy, stealing the spotlight with a rollicking one-legged descent. The following day, European papers ran full-sequence photo spreads of his stunt.

"This is great for the sport. Bode is exciting, dominant, good-looking," said former World Cup downhill champion Ken Read, a Canadian. "He's the best skier in the world and for all of us on that side of the ocean it's nice to see that."

If Miller can add Saturday's slalom title, he would become the first skier to win a world title in each of skiing's five disciplines. He won combined and giant slalom gold medals two years ago in St. Moritz, Switzerland, to go with his super-G and downhill titles in Bormio.

Operating differently

Fans felt a mix of horror and amusement upon learning the 27-year-old lost his gold medal for the combined from the 2003 worlds after using it to hold up the toilet seat at his apartment in Patsch, Austria.

Hours after winning the super-G gold in Bormio, he lost that one, too. The medal was in the pocket of his jacket, which apparently was taken while he was celebrating his victory at USA House -- where American team members go for recreation and publicity events. The medal was returned to the bar staff there, but his jacket is still missing.

"I think in some ways Bode's in a lot of people's heads because he operates a little differently," said U.S. men's speed coach John McBride. "He's not your standard person or athlete. He operates in his own way, and his view on things is a lot different. It's skewed a little differently."

Miller again was the center of attention when he and Rahlves played up their Super Bowl rivalry, with the New Englander cheering on the Patriots and Californian Rahlves supporting the Eagles, and USA House was the place to be in Bormio early Monday morning.

With a red baseball cap perched on his head and a beer in his hand, Miller sat up front, oblivious to the hundreds of people crammed inside. The game didn't start until after midnight.

"Yeah, I was there until the end, and then a little more. I was out pretty late," Miller said.




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