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Tim Layden
January 27, 2003
Suddenly running the best downhill races of his life, New Hampshire's Bode Miller is atop the overall World Cup standings
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January 27, 2003

World Beater

Suddenly running the best downhill races of his life, New Hampshire's Bode Miller is atop the overall World Cup standings

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In pursuit of that goal, Miller spent his summer in much the same way he always has: teaching for two months at his family's tennis camp in Franconia, N.H., and running intervals on quiet country roads while pushing a heavy tennis-court roller. He continued to live in the rustic home he bought from his grandmother two years ago. (MTV's Cribs called, but Miller was busy. "I would have loved to show them my cabin," he says.) When he joined the U.S. ski team for summer training, he worked exclusively on slalom and giant slalom.

At the first downhill of the season, on Nov. 30 at Lake Louise, Alberta, Canada, Miller trained once on his new skis and finished seventh. His best previous finish in a World Cup downhill had been 32nd. Miller was eighth in the downhill at Beaver Creek, Colo.; fifth on a tough course in Bormio, Italy; and, last week, sixth on the 2.7-mile, thigh-burning Lauberhorn in Wengen. "He's surprised all of us," says Schlopy. "Didn't work at downhill all summer, shows up and looks like a downhiller."

While others seek deep explanations, Miller is typically terse. "It's the skis-I haven't changed anything else," he says. "I'm more balanced and more relaxed in speed events, but the skis have a lot to do with that. I'm not struggling to control them."

Of course, it's not only the skis. "Bode has always been a great natural skier," says Norway's Kjetil Andre Aamodt, one of the four skiers to have won World Cup races in all five disciplines. "In the speed events he just needed experience and better skis. Now he's got both."

Miller switches skis constantly, from tiny 155-centimeter slalom skis to 217-centimeter downhill boards. And though he has improved dramatically in the downhill, he had only one second place and three did-not-fihishes in World Cup slaloms at week's end. He had fared somewhat better in the giant slalom, winning two while failing to finish in two others. Last Saturday he trained slalom on the morning of the second Wengen downhill. "It's what I have to do if I want to win in five events," says Miller.

His success in the speed disciplines will continue to push Rahlves to new heights too. Rahlves—ninth in the overall standings at week's end—won a downhill in December on the gnarly Bormio course and finished second to Eberharter last Friday in Wengen, on a course that plunged endlessly from the rocky face of the Eiger across barren ice flats and into a forest of evergreens. "I'm skiing better than I have in my life," Rahlves said afterward, near the finish line. "Better than 2001."

Then he was whisked away to a press conference. In a chopper.

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