Miller finally captures Olympic gold in super-combined

22 February 2010 00:41

WHISTLER, B.C. - When the chant of "Bode, Bode, Bode" rippled through the crowd after the men's Olympic super-combined race in Whistler on Sunday, it wasn't just fans and spectators. Course slippers coming down added their voices to the chorus and joined the international throng of people clamoring to get Bode Miller's autograph.

Miller completed his set of Olympic medals on Sunday, finally claiming the gold. After finishing seventh in the downhill portion of the race, 0.76 seconds behind then-leader Aksel Lund Svindal, the American notched his third straight medal at these Whistler Games and the fifth of his career, winning in a combined time of 2 minutes, 44.92 seconds.

"It was just awesome," said the 32-year-old of his gold medal race, in the middle of which he said he was exhausted and "going on fumes."

"It's how I used to ski when I was little. That is the way I skied when I first came into the World Cup," he said. "I had to just get fully fired up to take maximum risk."

Blazing down a slalom course set by his father, Ivica Kostelic, who was just more than a second back in ninth place after the downhill, defended his Olympic super-combined silver medal, finishing 0.33 seconds behind Miller. After the race, the 30-year-old Croatian who has come back from several health setbacks since the last Olympics said he could have won had he given it his all.

"My goal was to get a medal. I skied like that. I didn't give it 100 percent risk," he said. "There is quite a bit of luck involved. If you're a little less lucky you might not win, or you might get bronze instead of gold."

The man with the bronze Sunday was Swiss tech specialist Silvan Zurbriggen, who, after finishing third in the downhill part of the race, was 0.40 back overall, and surprised after what he felt was a conservative slalom run, to end up with a medal.

"I was very nervous during the downhill and I was even more nervous during the slalom," Zurbriggen said. "I thought I had skied safely, without taking risks. So this is amazing and unbelievable."

As for Ante Kostelic's course set, it did its work in eliminating some top contenders, although Ivica said there was only one trick gate in the whole course. But one was all it took for fellow Croatian Natko Zrnic-Dim to fall to 20th, sliding onto his hip and recovering to finish what could have otherwise been a medal-winning run. Italian Manfred Moelgg made an early exit off the course, Andrej Sporn threw himself out of the race and finally Svindal, the last one down, straddled that tricky gate.

"With a course like this you have to ski but you also have to think," Ivicia Kostelic said. "We trained on some of these combinations that my dad set today. It was an advantage here for all the slalom racers because the slalom was a quite demanding one. It gave us a chance to make up the time we had lost in the downhill."

Though Kostelic was sorry to see Svindal go down in the slalom, he said it was heartening to witness Miller's joy at his long-awaited gold finish.

"It's his dream come true," Kostelic said of Miller. "Our careers have been somewhat intertwined. I was very impressed with his skiing a couple of years back. He's a great skier. He deserves to be an Olympic champion. He's a man that usually doesn't show emotion, but while we were sitting in the tent, he was just so happy."

For Miller though, as he's said so many times before, the medal is not the source of his happiness.

"I feel great. I feel awesome," he said, adding that he would feel the same way if his slalom run had left him in fourth place (like Carlo Janka) rather than with a gold medal around his neck.

"Accomplishment doesn't hinge on the medal, it's on the skiing. I was doing it for the skiing itself, not the result."

But to ski this well at the Olympics ... that does mean something to Miller.

"It's the Olympics. I wanted to win," he said. "It feels amazing. I never really had too many confidence issues in my skiing, but to execute on a day like today, I'll be proud of this for the rest of my life. I skied with 100 percent heart."

- by Shauna Farnell