First American World Cup Champion in 21 Years

Bode Miller's giant slalom title the first since Phil Mahre's in 1983
By GreatOutdoors Staff - June 1st, 2004

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With his unusual "win" in the giant slalom competition at Sestriere, Italy, earlier this month, Bode Miller became the first American male to win a World Cup ski championship since Phil Mahre took top honors more than two decades ago.

Miller, who lives in Easton, New Hampshire, said it was "great" to be included with Mahre as World Cup GS champion, but he conceded it was bittersweet. "To win the GS title with 410 points after seven races is not the kind of season I thought I would win it with," he told a late-day press conference. Miller just beat out Kalle Palander of Finland to take the prize.

As if the end of the men's alpine World Cup season needed more drama, Miller skied off-course in dense fog and snow during his first run of the Sestriere giant slalom in his bid for his first World Cup. The fog later forced organizers to cancel the second run, essentially erasing the race. The decision made Miller, by default, the first U.S. men's champion since Phil Mahre in 1983

"I've said 100 times," Miller said. "It's an unpredictable sport and you never know what's going to happen" He would have had no problem, he said, if Palander had won the GS title. "I was willing to watch and see if he could beat me. And if he'd won, I would have had nothing but congratulations for him."

"Overall, I was happy with my GS season," Miller added, "but if Palander had won that would've been okay, too. He had a great season. For me, it was kind of a hit or miss season." Miller is one of several alumni from Carrabassett Valley Academy, Maine, on the US National Ski and Snowboard team.

Miller summed up the entire season as "unique" at the conclusion of the mid-March event in Itlay, and said he felt the overall level of skiing was not up to the all-around level that has won the title in recent seasons. "Winning a World Cup title, especially GS, has been a goal for a long time," the young American said, " but given the way it turned out - it was kind of anticlimactic But it's still great."

Miller took home six separate world cup victories in the long season that saw him compete in every World Cup event in North America and Europe. The New Englander is famous for marching to the beat of a different drummer. The Olympic silver medal-winner (he took two of those in Salt Lake City) was raised and home-schooled on 500 acres in the forests of New Hampshire without electricity or running water. Miller was called the "Great Hippie Hope" by Ski Magazine, a loose reference to his unusual upbringing near Franconia, New Hampshire.

In Italy, Miller had a statistical chance to overtake Austrian Hermann Maier for the overall World Cup championship. But Maier cinched the overall men's title when the race at Sestriere was cancelled. (The Italian course will become the Olympic giant slalom hill for the 2006 Olympic Games.) Maier's championship, his fourth, completes his comeback from a career-threatening injury in 1998, when he was involved in a serious motorcycle accident. "My goal before the season was just to finish," the "Herminator" said later, "so this title is worth as much as my first Olympic gold medal at Nagano."


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