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Sunday, 24 February, 2002, 01:28 GMT

Miller makes a mess of things

By BBC Sport Online's Alex Gubbay in Salt Lake City

British fans will remember the slalom at Deer Valley for a quite brilliant bronze from Alain Baxter.

His medal was guaranteed when home favourite Bode Miller theatrically lost his rhythm three times on his second run.

Miller's mess-up left French fans celebrating a fantastic one-two in the shape of Jean-Pierre Vidal and Sebastien Amiez.

And in the final Alpine event of these 2002 Winter Olympics, his failure also capped a disappointing two weeks for American skiers.

"That happens when you push hard"
Bode Miller

Miller is an ebullient character, who has fought back from a torn knee ligament a year ago to win silver in both the combined and giant slalom events here.

But he allowed his heart to rule his head on this occasion.

Well placed after the first run, and with enough time to work with, he still relentlessly attacked the second run, set by his own coaches.

He should have remembered the course is called "Know you don't".

"They wanted to challenge the whole field, which usually allows me to challenge myself and put some time on the guys," he said afterwards.

"It was tough, and you had to really ski well to make it down."

Sadly for fans and several USA team members in the stands, he didn't.

He went badly wrong about 25 gates in, and had to sidestep back up the hill to continue.

With the race already lost, he slipped twice more and eventually finished 25th, nearly 12 seconds behind the victorious Vidal.

Admittedly, Miller was only one of an amazingly high number of skiers who failed to finish on snow that broke up badly during the race.

But he should have proved himself better than them.

"The slalom was my best chance of gold, but that's sometimes what happens when you push hard.

"I just couldn't come through."

At least he does have those two silvers to take away from Salt Lake, some reward for his precocious talent.

But the American cupboard is bare apart from Bode.

Having failed to qualify for the defence of her super-G title, Picabo Street was never a realistic prospect in the women's downhill, and duly finished 16th.

Daron Rahlves was also 16th in the downhill, where he finished behind lesser-known compatriot Marco Sullivan.

Local boy Erik Schlopy admitted his two runs in the slalom "were pretty heinous".

In 14th place, he said he was just pleased to "have got down and finished the race".

At an Olympics where Americans have savoured success on the ice, particularly in skating and bobsleigh, on the snow, it has been a somewhat different story.


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