By Francois Thomazeau VAL D'ISERE, France (Reuters) - Bode Miller put the United States back on the map of Alpine skiing technical events with an historical giant slalom win Sunday. ``It's a relief to put all the pieces together at last,'' said the New Hampshire-born Miller, the first American winner of a men's World Cup giant slalom since Phil Mahre in 1983. ``It's a step but not as big a step as some people see it. We (Americans) have been skiing well for a long time,'' he insisted. Previous podium places, in Val d'Isere last year and Aspen this season, had shown that the versatile skier with an unorthodox and aggressive style had the means to make it to the top of a podium. ``I have felt I could ski fast enough to win for a long time. ``To have a World Cup win under my name is a good start. But it is one day. I want to show that it can last,'' he added. Miller's victory comes at the best possible time for the American team with the Salt Lake City Olympics only two months away. The best chance of a medal in the men's American team up to now had looked to be super-G world champion Daron Rahlves. ``We've been skiing well for a long time,'' said Miller, who trained in the autumn with the Austrians. ``To see me on top of a World Cup podium shows the others that we're going forward,'' he said. NO BONES Miller, who competes in all four Alpine disciplines but says he is ``not gifted enough technically'' for downhills, has made an impression on the ski circuit for his very personal style, both relaxed and risky. ``It pushes me to take risks. That's the way I like to ski,'' the 24-year-old skier said. But despite always skiing on the edge, he also is very smooth and fluid. ``Sometimes I feel like I'm practically made of water, with no bones. I don't know if anybody else feels that way but it's pretty cool,'' he said. The highly-confident American did not even blink when asked if he had a chance to win the overall World Cup. ``If I was to win the World Cup, it would come from my giant slalom and slaloms. In downhills, I'm just happy to make it to the finish for the experience it gives me. ``In super-Gs I feel I could make it to the top 10 or 15. I just don't have enough miles under my skis,'' he said. Asked if he had any skiing heroes, he did not mention any of the great American skiers of the past such as Tommy Moe, AJ Kitt, Bill Johnson or the Mahre brothers, Steve and Phil. But he cited Austrian Hermann Maier -- currently injured -- and Swiss Michael von Gruenigen as major influences. ``Maier has great intensity, he wants to win from start to finish. You can see it in his eyes,'' he said. ``Von Gruenigen is so skilled, so smooth, so tactically gifted. It's an honor to compete against him.'' source: http://dailynews.yahoo.com/h/nm/20011209/sp/skiing_miller_dc_1.html


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