The victor of Alpine skiing's combined deservedly lays claim to being the sport's most versatile athlete, as well as its most fit and resilient. That's because the combined consists of three runs contested on a single day: one downhill, which will be held at noon, followed by two slalom runs starting at 5 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. It's a test, ultimately, of disparate skills: The downhill is Alpine skiing's fastest and most dangerous event; the slalom is the shortest and most technical. And in Olympic history, no American has ever claimed gold in the combined.
Bode Miller, however, made history in Salt Lake City, becoming the first U.S. skier to medal in the combined. In typical fashion, he staged a thrilling show, falling on his left hip after his boot popped loose during the downhill, only to steady himself to finish that leg 15th. Then he stormed through the slalom, turning in the fastest time in his final run, to win silver.
Defending gold medalist Kjetil Andre Aamodt of Norway now is 34 and remains a contender, with a record seven Olympic Alpine medals. But coming on strong is his younger countryman, Aksel Lund Svindal, 23, who won silver in the combined at the 2005 world championships. Austria's Benjamin Raich arrives in Turin atop the World Cup standings in the event, followed by fellow Austrian Michael Walchhofer.
Miller, 28, is fourth in the standings and remains the U.S. team's top threat in the event. He intends to compete in all five Alpine events at Turin; the combined will be his second, coming just two days after the downhill.