HINTERSTODER, Austria (AP) – It’s been a big week for Americans in the Alps. Too bad it came 10 months too late for the Turin Olympics.

Bode Miller won a super-giant slalom in Hinterstoder on Wednesday, 90 minutes after Lindsey Kildow and Julia Mancuso finished 1-2 in a downhill at Val d’Isere, France. Those successes gave the U.S. team five wins and an unprecedented nine podium results in the past six days.

Miller’s win, his third of the season, moved him atop the overall World Cup standings.

The American skiers’ dominance on the slopes is in stark contrast to their disappointing showing in February, when they went to Turin aiming for eight medals but came home with only two. Miller was a flop at the 2006 Games, failing to win a medal after being among the favorites in all five events. “We’re having unprecedented results with regards to the number of different athletes reaching the podium,” said U.S. Alpine director Jesse Hunt. “Five different athletes have made the podium in six days of racing. It’s unbelievable.”

In addition to Miller and Kildow, wins in the past week have come from Mancuso and Steven Nyman. It was the first World Cup victory for each.

The U.S. squad’s podium finishes in the past six days have come in all disciplines – slalom, giant slalom, super-G and downhill. It is the most impressive streak for the American team since 1983.

The success has come amid a continuing battle between Miller and the U.S. team over new rules that require skiers to stay at the team hotel during races. Miller would prefer to stay in his motorhome.

But opponents say they see a change in Miller since the Turin Games, where he made headlines with his partying instead of his skiing.

“Last year, every time I went out at night I saw Bode and he was going home after me,” the Austrian men’s head coach Toni Giger told The Associated Press. “This year I haven’t seen him too often when I go out. I think he’s more focused on his skiing and less on going out and drinking and having fun.

“He has good motivation. He’s changed his skis. He always was a very talented skier, so this combination makes him stronger.” Miller, who kicked off the U.S. podium run last Friday by winning a super-G in Val Gardena, Italy, raced down the foggy mile-long Wertung course Wednesday in 1 minute, 9.76 seconds for the 24th World Cup victory of his career.

“Things are starting to come together for me,” said Miller, who switched to Head skis from Atomic in the offseason and is the only skier this season with more than one World Cup victory.

“My skis are working great. I’m a good skier. I’ve proved it in the past. But a good skier still requires good skis. In super-G and downhill, there’s no question, my skis are great.”

Miller, the 2004-05 overall champion, last led the standings on Dec. 21, 2005. Last season, he finished third overall while posting just two victories.

Miller finished 0.79 seconds ahead of his nearest rival, Peter Fill of Italy, who equaled his best World Cup result. Hermann Maier placed third on home snow in 1:10.70, his first podium result this season, but angrily smashed his poles on the snow in the finish area. It marked the 12th consecutive race the once-dominant Austrian men have failed to win.

Maier partially dislocated his shoulder in a crash during the warm-up before the race, but is expected to compete in Thursday’s giant slalom.

Kildow, who has four straight top-three finishes in downhill this season and leads the World Cup standings in that discipline, won in 1 minute, 38.06 seconds on the 1.55-mile course. She was 1.24 seconds faster than Mancuso, who was coming off her first World Cup win in Tuesday’s downhill.

Anja Paerson of Sweden finished third Wednesday in 1:39.50.

The men and women have another race each this week – the men a giant slalom and the women a slalom on Thursday.

AP-ES-12-20-06 1824EST


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