Bode Miller finishes 4th in downhill training run |

Bode Miller finishes 4th in downhill training run

The Associated Press
Aspen, CO Colorado
U.S. ski racer Bode Miller of Easton, NH., races down the course during a training run for the men's World Cup downhill ski race in Beaver Creek, Colo., on Thursday, Dec. 2, 2010. The downhill is scheduled for Friday. (AP Photo/Alessandro Trovati)

BEAVER CREEK, Colo. – The rush of ski racing keeps Bode Miller around.

If not for the high rate of speed he can travel – and legally, he quickly adds – the U.S. skier would simply step away.

Miller had a quick run going Thursday in the third and final World Cup downhill training session, before shutting it down near the end. He turned in the fourth-fastest time, finishing 0.23 seconds behind Austria’s Hans Grugger.

Even though the challenging Birds of Prey course has lost some of its bite – more technical and less speed – Miller remains one of the top contenders when the downhill starts Friday.

And to think Miller almost retired before this season.

The exhilaration of flying down the mountain was too hard to resist, luring him back to the hill.

“I wouldn’t have an opportunity to run on a track like that any other way,” the 33-year-old Miller said, smirking. “I’d get arrested or locked up or whatever. If I could do it on my own, I probably wouldn’t be here.”

But he is, and skiing as well as he ever has. This is definitely a course that suits him well, too.

Or at least it used to.

Miller has won two World Cup downhill races at Beaver Creek, when it was more of a speed demon’s course, complete with a jump that sent a skier sailing nearly the length of a football field before landing.

Now, Miller said it resembles a super-G track, with more turns and twists. There’s less room for error and Miller will definitely make a few, then pick his spots to make up for it.

It’s all or nothing for him.

“On race day, I push pretty hard,” Miller said. “A lot of guys don’t push that hard and they have a much better chance of executing their plan well. A lot of times their plan doesn’t lead them to win, but they execute it well.

“My plan, I don’t execute it very often, but when I do, it makes it so I win.”

His gambler’s mentality has served him well over his career. He’s won 32 World Cup races and five Olympic medals, including three at the Vancouver Olympics.

Miller will have his work cut out for him Friday as all the top contenders appear to be dialed into the course. Switzerland’s Carlo Janka, who swept all three events last year, teammate Didier Cuche, Austria’s Michael Walchhofer and Norway’s Aksel Lund Svindal are all skiing at a top level.

“It’s going to be tight,” said Cuche, who turned in the fastest training run Tuesday. “We have to push, but we also have to accept little mistakes and improvise a new line. It’s tough to keep the perfect line in that top section with so many turns and rolls. As soon as you make a little mistake, you have to improvise.”

No one improvises quite like Miller. Hardly driven by results, he takes chances that many don’t.

“I know I have the speed to win, but execution is what it comes down to,” Miller said. “I had problems with that (last week) in Lake Louise. I’m notorious for having problems with that.”

Before Lake Louise, Miller hadn’t stepped into his downhill skis at all this season. He elected to attend the team’s technical training camp in New Zealand over the summer and then eschewed a later camp that was dedicated to speed.

A disadvantage for him?

“Hard to say,” Miller said. “If you train a bunch of speed in the summer, because it’s so different, because your intensity is never as high, you can sometimes form bad habits.

“If you have experience, especially in my case – I’ve raced so many hundreds of World Cup downhill training runs and races – it makes sense for me to wait and ski the training runs and approach them that way. The muscle memory comes back pretty quick.”

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