BEAVER CREEK, Colo. – At his daring best, Bode Miller is back in the win column.

Off to a much slower start than a year ago, the defending overall World Cup champion picked up his first victory of the season Saturday, leading a 1-2-4 U.S. finish in a giant slalom.

Miller, who tied for the lead after the first run, nearly went down twice in the second, but somehow stayed up and stayed fast, finishing with a total time of 2 minutes, 34.56 seconds.

“I was fully, fully aware of being on the edge the whole time,” Miller said. “I was definitely taking a risk. Those are the kind of runs that are fun for me.”

Daron Rahlves, who beat Miller in a 1-2 U.S. downhill Friday, wound up in second place in the giant slalom, 0.49 seconds back.

The results pushed the teammates and training partners to the top of the World Cup overall standings, with Rahlves at No. 1, and Miller at No. 2 – and certainly sent a signal that all eyes will be on the American duo at the Turin Olympics in February.

“Today showed what we have in ourselves. Hopefully it does send a good message to everybody else and gets them thinking a bit more,” Rahlves said. “And that just gives us more power as a team.”

Kalle Palander of Finland – tied with Miller after the first run – finished third, 1.23 seconds off the pace. Erik Schlopy of the United States was fourth, just another 0.01 behind, despite skiing with his left hand taped after smashing it into a gate during the opening run.

Kildow shows U.S. women have power

LAKE LOUISE, Alberta – American power in Alpine skiing applies to both sexes this Olympic season.

Lindsey Kildow made that clear Saturday with a women’s World Cup downhill victory in the swirling winds and frigid temperatures of the Canadian Rockies.

While the U.S. men dominated in Colorado, Kildow edged Sylviane Berthod of Switzerland by three-hundredths of a second Saturday for her second career World Cup win.

The 21-year-old American triumphed on the same Lake Louise hill where she won her first World Cup race a year ago. As happened in 2004, Kildow and U.S. teammate Bode Miller won the same day. Miller won the giant slalom at Beaver Creek on Saturday.

“Today was really special for me,” Kildow said.

“I’ve only won once before, and that was here. To do it again was awesome.”

Fighting the wind and whiffs of blowing light snow, Kildow won in 1 minute, 49.51 seconds. Berthod was second in 1:49.54. Michaela Dorfmeister of Austria, second in Friday’s downhill, was third Saturday in 1:49.63.

Kildow finished fifth in Friday’s race.

Her victory at Lake Louise a year ago was the start of a breakout season, where she finished among the top three seven times.

She is the first U.S. woman to earn multiple World Cup downhill titles since her idol and friend Picabo Street won the final three of her nine career races in 1996.

“She kind of put me under her wing when I was on the team with her,” Kildow said. “I owe a lot to her.”

I met her when I was nine years old, and she gave me the motivation and kind of the goal to be in the Olympics and win an Olympic gold medal.”

Kildow moved with her family to Vail, Colo., from St. Paul, Minn., in the early 1990s to concentrate on training. She lives in Park City, Utah, with her boyfriend, former Olympic skier Thomas Vonn.

“This summer I trained a lot better than I did last year,” she said. “I think I’ve improved a lot in my technique and in my general skills of skiing. Hopefully this year, I’ll be more consistent. It’s also a learning experience. You have to go through that season. Last year was that season. I learned you have to maintain your energy. It’s not easy.”

Kildow has been dubbed America’s next Picabo Street for her combination of skill, attitude and charm. She recently ended contact with her father, Alan, who had nurtured and oversaw her career.

“All I’m going to say is I’m not speaking with my father at the moment,” Kildow said, “and that’s it.”

The winner of Friday’s World Cup downhill on the same Lake Louise course, Elena Fanchini of Italy, was seventh Saturday.

An Arctic front continued to bring bitter cold weather – it was 9 degrees at the finish line – to Lake Louise. The World Cup stop concludes Sunday with a super giant slalom.

Stacey Cook, another 21-year-old American, was eighth at 1:50.13, bettering her breakthrough 10th-place finish in Friday’s race. Before this weekend, her best World Cup finish had been 31st.

Dorfmeister, who is retiring after this season, earned her sixth top-three finish at Lake Louise. She is the defending champion in the super-G at Lake Louise. Dorfmeiter said the weather was tough.

“The conditions changed between the racers,” she said. “Some girls took the wind from the front and some girls from the back.”

But she had no complaints, saying it is good to have a challenging course.

“Conditions like this, the good skiers are always in front,” said Dorfmeister, a 21-time World Cup winner.

Berthod’s second-place finish was her best since she her lone World Cup victory, in the downhill at St. Moritz, Switzerland, in 2002.

American Jonna Mendez escaped a frightening crash with no serious injuries. She lost control and slammed into the fence, her skis pointing to the sky. Later in the finish area, she said she was sore but otherwise all right.

“Good crash?” she asked reporters who had witnessed it on the big video screen.

When told it was a scary one, she joked, “Well, if you’re going to do it, you might as well make it big.”

American Julia Mancuso, fourth in Friday’s race, struggled against some of the worst of the wind to finish 23rd, one spot behind U.S. teammate Kirsten Clark, who is still in a training mode after recovering from a staph infection in her leg.

AP-ES-12-03-05 1850EST

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