Bode Miller makes quick exit in slalom, but leaves with 3 medals

Seattle TimesFebruary 28, 2010 

USA's Bode Miller chews on his mouthpiece after missing a gate Saturday during the men's slalom race. (Wally Skalij/Los Angeles Times/MCT)

WHISTLER, British Columbia — Bode Miller's final Olympics race lasted eight seconds — the time it took for him to ski a few gates at the top of a foggy, mushy slalom course before hooking a tip.

Games over.

But these Olympic memories should last a lifetime. Miller hit for the cycle: one gold (super-combined), one silver (super-G), one bronze (downhill) in an Olympics that were the polar opposite of his performance four years ago, when he won zero medals in five events in Turin.

"I really couldn't be much happier (with the Olympics)," Miller said. "To have three medals, and the two medals I didn't get I skied hard. I came out, I was ready, I was prepared. That's all the stuff you can do."

Teammate Ted Ligety also had a tough Saturday at Whistler Creekside. Skiing just before Miller in the first run, Ligety, the surprise gold-medalist in super-combined in 2006, missed a gate on the top third of the course. He will leave here with no medals in three events.

"It was pretty heartbreaking," said Ligety, a medal favorite in the technical events. "It was disappointing for me personally. If you look at my results this year, there are hot streaks and cold streaks. It just wasn't my weekend."

Italy's Giuliano Razzoli won slalom gold. Croatia's Ivica Kostelic was second and Sweden's Andre Myhrer took bronze.

Miller and Ligety were among 47 skiers who did not advance to the second run by either crashing or missing a gate.

"It's tough being on a team with so many guys who are getting medals and you are one of the favorites but you don't win," said the 25-year-old Ligety, who said he'll be back for the next Olympics, and the one after.

Still, few had a clue these Olympics would be so good for the Americans. The alpine team made history with a total of eight medals, three more than its previous best from 1984 in Sarajevo, where Deb Armstrong and twins Phil and Steve Mahre led the way.

How successful was the U.S. alpine team? Put it this way: If the team was a country, it would have placed 12th of 26 nations in the medal count, just one behind Switzerland and Sweden.

Miller, who owns a career five medals (a silver and bronze in 2002), leaves the Games a happy man.

"I leave here feeling like I really accomplished something," said Miller.

"To have huge expectations. ... I couldn't have been more happy."

Besides the established stars, like Miller and Lindsey Vonn (gold and bronze), the Americans got surprise medals from Julia Mancuso (two silvers) — who hadn't reached a World Cup podium in two seasons — and Andrew Weibrecht (bronze), whose best tour finish was 10th. Miller was thinking about retiring before this season but was lured back, partly by coach Sasha Rearick. During the Games he's had "one foot in the boat" of retirement but was unclear if he'll call it quits after this season.

"The Olympic moment dragged me back, dragged me back off the boat," he said.

Early on, just about everything worked for the Americans. Skiers pointed to preparation. That included eschewing the Athletes Village for a slopeside condo, where the team lived.

U.S. WINTER OLYMPIC SKIING MEDALS, 1988-2010

2010: 8, Bode Miller (gold, super-combined; silver, super-G; bronze, downhill); Lindsey Vonn (gold, downhill; bronze, super-G); Julia Mancuso (silver, downhill; silver, super-combined); Andrew Weibrecht, (bronze, super-G)

2006: 2, Ted Ligety (gold, combined), Julia Mancuso (gold, giant slalom)

2002: 2, Bode Miller (silver, super-combined; bronze, giant slalom)

1998: 1, Picabo Street (gold, super-G)

1994: 4, Tommy Moe (gold, downhill; silver, super-G); Picabo Street (silver, downhill); Diann Roffe (gold, super-G)

1992: 2, Dianne Roffe (silver, giant slalom), Hilary Lindh (silver, downhill)

1988: 0

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