Bode wins bronze in downhill

Miller is first American to medal in event since Lillehammer Games

The 2006 Winter Olympics in Torino were supposed to belong to Bode Miller. The American skier entered those Games as the defending World Cup champion — the first from the United States in 22 years — but left them in bitter disappointment with no medals at all in five events.

Eight years after winning two silver medals at the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, Miller finally made it back to the podium Monday afternoon in Vancouver. He finished third in the men's downhill event at Whistler Creekside with a time of 1 minute, 54.40 seconds, adding a bronze medal to his collection. That was just .09 behind gold-medal winner Didier Defago (1:54.31) of Switzerland. Norway's Aksel Lund Svindal took silver (1:54.38) .02 ahead of Miller.

“I could have been fourth today easily,” Miller said. “There's guys who have been better than me in some training runs here and who made mistakes or didn't have great luck today.”

Disappointment and controversy surrounded Miller in Torino. He didn't finish two races, was disqualified from another and left saying famously that he “got to party and socialize at an Olympic level.” But he becomes the first American to medal in the downhill since Tommy Moe did so in 1994 in Lillehammer, Norway. The time margin between gold and bronze was the smallest in Olympic downhill history. Bill Johnson was the first American to win downhill gold in Sarajevo in 1984. That also was the first time a United States skier medaled in the event.

“It's been a transition for me back onto the [United States] team,” said Miller, who contemplated retirement well into the summer after not earning a medal at the 2009 World Championships. “I think that part is important. I think it was more a medal for everybody else than me particularly, but I'll take it.”

The downhill was originally scheduled for Saturday afternoon, but fog, snow and rain on Whistler Mountain delayed the start of all alpine events for both men and women. The men are back in action on Tuesday for the super-combined, which Miller won at a World Cup event Jan. 15 in Wengen, Switzerland.

“I think if I let myself get emotionally wound up like that, there's nobody who wants it more, there's nobody who pushes harder,” Miller said of his upcoming race. “It's just a matter of managing those mistakes that are inevitably going to happen.”

bmcnally@washingtonexaminer.com

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