FILE UNDER -- Alpine

Focused Bode Miller: I'm happy to be healthy

Focused Bode Miller: I’m happy to be healthy{mosimage}SOELDEN, Austria – Bode Miller was still smiling on Sunday despite missing by just 0.07 seconds the honor of becoming the first ski racer in history to win three consecutive races on the demanding Rettenbach glacier.

“It was a very tough race and I’m pretty pleased by my form,” said the defending World Cup champion, who finished second behind Austrian Hermann Maier in a giant slalom.

“I know where I lost the race so it’s not a problem. I almost crashed badly in the first run and I’m happy to be healthy.”

Miller, a double gold medalist at last season’s alpine world championships, said he had enjoyed watching the normally reserved Maier’s wild celebrations in the finish area at Soelden.

“I was so amazed to see how Hermann flipped out. It’s quite unusual for Austrians, he almost hugged me,” Miller joked.

Maier threw aside his skis and dived to the ground as he reveled in becoming the first man to win the opening race of the season four times. He had a hat trick of wins, two in Soelden and one in Tignes, between 1999 and 2001.

“I can appreciate his joy, he achieved a great performance today and I’m happy for him,” Miller said.

The 28-year-old American had another reason to smile after getting good news from home about his younger brother Chelone, who suffered serious head injuries in a motorcycle accident earlier this month.

“Chelone is doing better; the doctors are really impressed by his fast progress and he is already walking around his room,” Miller said.

“He still has a long recovery ahead of him but things are going much better than the experts thought. We hope everything will soon be fine.”

Miller, who is looking forward to spending time with his family in New Hampshire before the next World Cup races in Lake Louise, Canada, on Nov. 26 and 27, said he had been able to focus on Sunday’s race despite the worries about his brother.

“I’m fortunate enough to be able to switch off when it matters,” he said. “Anyway, as long as I can’t do anything to help my brother, I’d better do my best on my side.”

Miller won both the downhill and super G in Lake Louise last year. Maier, who returned to racing in 2003 after nearly losing a leg in a motorcycle accident, has three career super G wins at the Alberta resort, so the stage is set for two exciting races next month.

Miller, though, played down suggestions of a duel with Maier in the run-up to February’s Winter Olympics in Torino.

“I know that the press like to create these kinds of stories but when I’m on the course I’m by myself and Hermann can’t stop me skiing fast, just as I can’t stop him excelling when he’s coming down the mountain.

“There are many skiers out there who can win races. It’s of course exciting to be linked to a champion of his caliber who achieved that great comeback.”

Miller is determined not to worry about the rest of the season.

“I don’t have precise goals for the coming months except remaining healthy and having fun attacking as hard as possible,” he said with another smile. “I’m living on a day-to-day basis and it’s fine that way.”

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