A little more than a week ago, Bode Miller sat before journalists in the new lodge at Snowbasin and, as casually as giving his name, said he was the fastest technical skier in the world. He's just won the Gold Cup slalom.
The world, he said, not just Utah or France or even Europe, but the whole world . . . and, to be honest, few people in the world would argue right now. Miller, from Franconia, N.H., won his third World Cup and his second slalom World Cup Sunday in Adelboden, Switzerland.
And it wasn't so much that he won that proves he is fast, but his margin of victory — nearly two seconds. By comparison, the next four world-class skiers were a mere four-tenths of a second apart.
"I knew I could win, but I didn't think it would be by such a large margin," he said in a telephone interview Sunday afternoon. Last month, Miller won back-to-back World Cups in giant slalom and slalom in France and Italy, respectively. The last U.S. skier to win three WC races in a season was Phil Mahre in 1983.
Even the other racers recognize his speed. He said Ivica Kostelic, of Croatia, who finished second and is currently leading the WC slalom standings, told him after the race that no one could read his number, "meaning I was so far ahead."
Jesse Hunt, the U.S. head slalom/GS coach said after the win, "We're loving it. Obviously, Bode skied very well, but he also skied smart." And that, as much as anything, explains the new Bode Miller — he's fast and smart.
Miller went out and played hockey after the race, a sport he said he played when he was younger but now does for training.
The race itself was made to test Miller. The course was steep, technical and offered snow conditions that were hard in sections and soft in other sections.
And because of it, he said, "I didn't let it rip. The course was so tough. Even guys giving 70-80 percent were having trouble. The snow was so inconsistent, you don't know what could happen, and luckily nothing did happen."
Had it been a year go, or even going back three or four years, something more than likely would have happened. Even Miller admitted it. Miller was as inconsistent as the snow.
"I always came into races with the ability and mentally prepared to win. I skied great races, but I couldn't control what happened. Certain things just happened. Now it's different. My body is more mature and the skis today are great," he said as he looked for a reason why past disappointments have given way to three WC wins.
Miller's time was 1 minute, 33.24 seconds, followed by Kostelic (who won the WC slalom in Aspen in November) with a 1:35.16 and Mitja Kunc of Slovenia, in 1:35.39.
Chip Knight of Stowe, Vt., finished 17th, his best showing of the year, and Erik Schlopy of Park City straddled the first gate on his first run and did not finish.
The win, of course, sets Miller up as the top medal candidate in the Olympic slalom.
Miller said the Olympic pressure won't bother him when it comes time to compete.
"I'm not at all afraid," he answered when the Olympics were mentioned.
"It doesn't scare me to lose. It's my time to shine, and I'm confident in my ability."
As is everyone else right now.
Meanwhile, in Maribor, Slovenia, the U.S. women were putting down some impressive finishes. Sarah Schleper of Vail posted her fourth consecutive top-10 finish with a fifth in a WC slalom. This was her highest finish this season.
Kristina Koznick of Burnsville, Minn., was seventh.