Bode Miller eyes win in Sunday's downhill

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— We’ve all heard of him, about him and from him.

From the partying eight years ago in Torino, to the redemption four years ago in Vancouver. From tabloid covers to poignant, if not in-your-face, responses from years past.

2014 Winter Olympics

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Yes, Bode Miller again will be on center stage come Sunday when the Alpine contests open at the Rosa Kutor Alpine Resort in Sochi, Russia.

This time, though, Miller is making headlines for what he’s always done best: his skiing.

The five-time Olympic medalist has raised some eyebrows in the early going in Sochi, winning two of the vaunted downhill’s training runs, including the last one Saturday.

Miller’s results leading into Sochi and here at the Olympics have set up a Broadway-worthy drama with Norway's Aksel Svindal, the favorite, who currently leads the World Cup downhill standings and is known for his consistent results.

"It is a f---ing real course,” a jacked-up Miller said after winning Saturday’s downhill, his second in three training runs. “If you are not totally focused, this course can kill you. It is one of those courses where I don't think you are safe going easy."

The skier, who missed last season with a knee injury, always has done it his way. That means taking chances and trying to win. To Miller, finishing first is better than playing it safe and finishing second.

It could play well here in Sochi, where the downhill has proven to be everything a skier can handle.

There are jumps called the “Russian Trampoline” and “Lake Jump," and the course includes sweeping turns from one side to the other. The snow changes from top to bottom, and it’s bumpy and tosses skiers, who are hurtling downhill at 80 mph.

It’s must-see TV.

"On this course, you are hitting so many bumpy parts, so parts of a ski are always in the air, and when they come back on to the snow, there's no guarantee it will go straight,” Svindal said. “When you are going at about 130 KMH it feels more like 160 KMH."

Miller is coming off a third-place finish at the fabled Hahnenkamm downhill and a second-place result in the super-G.

Svindal figures to be the favorite, however, finishing in the top 10 of training runs in Sochi, including a third-place finish Friday.

The difference between the skiers is evident and could be paramount. Miller is Evel Knievel, while Svindal is Will Smith.

“Aksel is super consistent, rock solid, doesn’t really take risks very often,” Miller said in a press conference Thursday. “The risks he takes are calculated on what it’s going to take to win. I more or less ski with the intent to push myself, so sometimes the risk is out of proportion with where the rewards come from.”

Considering the two also figure to do battle in the combined and super-G events, Sunday's downhill race could be the first of a trilogy.

"It's going to be hard to stay calm and relaxed," Miller said. "The course demands alot out of skiers, but being a little more excited and focused won't hurt."

To reach Luke Graham, call 970-871-4229, email lgraham@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @LukeGraham

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