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Miller takes World Cup downhill at Birds of Prey

By Pat Graham
AP Sports Writer / December 2, 2011
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BEAVER CREEK, Colo.—Bode Miller aggressively tore down the demanding course as only he can.

His poles were swinging wildly in all directions, his body was smacking gates, his skis were all over the place and his form was far from textbook.

When he reached the bottom and saw his time, Miller pumped his fist several times, not so much out of satisfaction as a sense of relief that he was safely down.

That's how many risks he took to capture a World Cup downhill on a challenging Birds of Prey course on Friday.

Miller held nothing back as he finished in a time 1 minute, 43.82 seconds, holding off Beat Feuz of Switzerland by 0.04 seconds. Klaus Kroell of Austria was third.

Miller took an aggressive line only he would dare attempt and executed it to near perfection to pick up his 33rd World Cup win. It also was his third downhill victory on this course.

"The stuff I pulled off today, it doesn't work all the time," Miller said. "Three out of 10 times, you try that and it works. The other six you end up in the fence."

And the 10th?

"In the hospital," Miller continued.

There was no worry of that, right?

Standing in the starting gate, Miller was a bundle of nerves. He knew that in order to win -- or even have a shot -- he had to throw any hint of caution to the side and charge at full velocity. He was a little apprehensive he could pull it off.

But this is Miller, who's made a career out of taking chances. He would just as rather ski off the course than tap the brakes.

That's why he was so pleased with this run, calling it perhaps the best he's ever skied, at least from a technical standpoint.

"I charged into every single turn," Miller said. "If I had backed off anywhere, I know that lead was gone. I didn't back off at all today."

He certainly didn't. Not here. Not on this course, where the snow conditions were ideal for attacking.

So, Miller did.

"Coming across the line every time I've won here, I've come across just totally fired up and excited and happy to still be alive at the finish," Miller said. "When I'm really trying to win here, the risk you take is serious risk."

Miller actually helped tone down the course earlier in the week. Serving as the athletes' representative for this race, he raised safety concerns on Tuesday over a section of the course. The International Ski Federation listened and canceled the training run to work on the course.

Any hint that Miller might have done that to give himself, or the Americans, an unfair advantage was preposterous. He did say an athlete shouldn't be making those kinds of decisions.

"The issue I brought up was so obvious," Miller said. "I think it would've gotten dealt with either way. But any input an athlete has to a course is always too subjective. That's an area FIS should take 100 percent responsibility. I don't think athletes directly should have anything to say about that."

After his breakneck run, Miller had to anxiously wait to see if his time would hold up. He was the 12th skier to go off, and there were plenty of others who were capable of laying down a swift run.

But no one could catch him, although Feuz and Kroell came close.

"I saw the time on the start, and knew it would be very tough to beat him," Kroell said. "I tried my best. It was tight."

For Feuz, this was another solid performance. He also finished second at the season-opening downhill in Lake Louise, Alberta, last weekend.

"It was unbelievable," Feuz said through a translator. "The course here in Beaver Creek is definitely one of the most difficult downhill races. So, for me, it's definitely one of the best experiences."

Switzerland's Didier Cuche, a pre-race favorite, made some mistakes and finished ninth. Cuche won the downhill last weekend.

Ted Ligety had a solid run, despite hardly being a downhill specialist. Ligety, who's won three overall giant slalom titles, was 22nd, 1.93 seconds behind his teammate.

"Talking to Bode last night, he was trying to figure out where he could make up time, because he didn't feel like he could go much faster than he had been going (in training)," Ligety said. "Obviously, he made up good time today."

And with his family and friends present as well, including his 3-year-old daughter who saw her father win for the first time.

"It was stressful for her. She can definitely feel my moods a little bit," Miller said. "When I won, my parents said she was really excited and happy. Pretty quickly after that, she had a complete meltdown for no reason.

"We all know how that is -- a huge adrenaline rush is usually followed by a pretty low point. I can totally relate to what she had to go through. I feel a little bad I put her through that."

She did get to see the essence of her father, though, as he turned high risk into high reward.

"I love to ski the way I did today," Miller said. "When I came across the finish line, I was 100 percent satisfied. It's great to have it coincide with a win."

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AP Sports Writer Pat Graham can be reached at http://twitter.com/pgraham34.

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