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Hampered by lack of visibility, Bode takes bronze

WHISTLER, British Columbia - Depending on how you look at things, American Bode Miller missed his first Olympic gold medal by either 0.09 seconds or 20 minutes in yesterday's Alpine downhill.

Skiing in flat light that hampered his visibility on the middle part of the course, the New Hampshire speedster laid down a blistering run other skiers thought golden.

"I thought he'd won," U.S. teammate Andrew Weibrecht said.

But about 20 minutes later, the sun peaked out from behind the clouds, improving visibility well enough for two skiers to squeak past Miller, leaving him with a bronze in the closest downhill race in Olympic history. Switzerland's Didier Defago took gold in a time of 1:54.31 and silver went to Norway's Aksel Lund Svindal.

Miller was 0.09 seconds behind Defago.

"That's the way skiing is. Sometimes you get a little bad luck and it makes a difference," Miller said.

Miller's bronze sets a standard for American skiers. Though gold still eludes him, his three medals are the most by any U.S. skier, with the other two coming in 2002 in Salt Lake City.

"It's such a relief to get a medal," Miller said. "The fact that those other guys beat me to the hundredth of a second doesn't bother me."

Miller said he was nervous before his run, "but excited nervous, not anxiety nervous. It felt great."

His teammates said he seemed especially focused before the race, something he's lacked at times in his career. The focus may have helped him speed through the middle of the course even though visibility was not ideal.

"It was dark," said Weibrecht, who skied less than 10 minutes before Miller.

Miller says he lost the race in the middle section and the mistakes he made were because of the lack of visibility.

"That's just a critical part of the course," Miller said. "I was pushing really hard the whole way, but I had a couple of bobbles. Just not being able to see, you hit bumps and it kind of bounces you around a little bit."

Defago and Svindal skied eight and 10 spots, respectively, after Miller and had better visibility. Defago gained 0.53 seconds on Miller during the middle section and Svindal gained 0.73 seconds.

New York Sports