Bode Miller leads downhill training; women delayed

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KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia (AP) - Bode Miller is at his fifth Olympics and already owns a U.S.-record five Alpine medals, so in many ways he certainly already has, as he put it Thursday, “been here and done this.”

While Miller’s past accomplishments, plus propensity for saying whatever is on his mind, might have made him an athlete to keep an eye on during the Sochi Games anyway, his skiing still can grab headlines. Miller delivered the fastest opening downhill training run ahead of Sunday’s race, finishing in 2 minutes, 7.75 seconds.

“He’s been fast this whole season, but especially these last three weeks,” said Aksel Lund Svindal of Norway, who tied for eighth in Thursday’s training and, like Miller, won a medal of each color at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics. “And this is also a course that should be good for him. So I’m not surprised.”

The women’s downhill training was interrupted for about an hour while the lip of a dangerous jump was flattened by machines. Only three racers went down the hill before the delay, and one got hurt. Anna Fenninger of Austria turned in the best time, 1:41.73, followed by Fraenzi Aufdenblatten of Switzerland and Julia Mancuso of the U.S. (Defending champion Lindsey Vonn is sidelined after right knee surgery.)

Mancuso is the sort of athlete who says the sorts of things the folks who run the Olympics might like - and perhaps expect - to hear about participating.

“I just still really get excited,” she said. “My Olympic experience is really exciting, and I just get fueled by the energy, and it doesn’t matter if it’s my first time or my fourth time.”

And then there’s Miller.

“Not to take anything away from the Olympics,” he said, a pair of sunglasses perched atop the “USA” blue wool cap on his head, “but it just isn’t the same after I’ve done it as many times as I have.”

He made his debut at the 1998 Nagano Games, won a pair of silvers four years later in Salt Lake City, boasted about his late-night partying while failing to even finish three of five events in Turin in 2006, then left Vancouver in 2010 with a gold in super combined, silver in super-G and bronze in downhill.

Miller’s also a two-time overall World Cup champion, a man who has started 430 races on the circuit, earning 33 wins and another 45 top-three finishes.

All of which means he’s very talented at what he does - a good thing, naturally - and has plenty of experience - not necessarily good, in Miller’s view.

Let him explain.

“It can be a hindrance to be in your fifth Olympics, with 400-something World Cups behind you: I do get less nervous; I do get less excited. I’m much more focused, and I’m hoping that kind of trade-off works in my favor,” Miller said. “But I definitely can see, from my perspective now, some of my competitors, in a way, have an advantage over me.”

Teammate Marco Sullivan was asked how Miller has changed, not only as a ski racer but as a person.

The query drew a hearty laugh.

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