Record Haul Of Medals For U.S. Alpine Skiers

On Friday, the U.S. Ski Team marked a medals milestone at the Vancouver Olympics. American Alpine skiers have already won more medals on the Olympic slopes at Whistler than they did in any previous Games. NPR's Howard Berkes reports.

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The Canadian Olympic team said they wanted to own the podium. Russians are supposedly disappointed at their athletes' low medal count. But yesterday, the U.S. ski team shown from the slopes to the podium. American Alpine skiers have already won more medals on the Olympic slopes in Whistler than in any previous games. They've taken half the medals awarded so far and six races remain.

From Whistler, NPR's Howard Berkes reports.

HOWARD BERKES: As American Bode Miller stood at the start of Friday's Super G in Whistler, he had his own cheerleader.

Unidentified Man: Come on, Bode. It's up to you right now. Take this thing. Come on.

BERKES: And take it he did, tacking the course at downhill speed, but still needing to negotiate gates that are closer than those of the downhill race. Miller's mixed performance in Olympics past had him determined to again reach the podium here. But he was considered more of a medal contender than a medal favorite in the Super G.

(Soundbite of cheering)

BERKES: Blasting across the finish line, Miller was in first place, but Aksel Lund Svindal of Norway later raced a hair faster, leaving Miller with a silver medal. The big surprise for bronze was American Andrew Weibrecht, whose best finish in the Super G to date had been 11th place.

Ron Judd is an Olympics writer for the Seattle Times and he sees Weibrecht as the promising new vanguard.

Mr. RON JUDD (Seattle Times): This next generation of Olympians is sort of represented right there on the podium by him. And Bode Miller, you know, he's been the greatest skier this country has ever produced for a number of years now and is probably on his way down now. So, if I'm one of the people running U.S. skiing, I'd have to be really pumped by what's happened so far, especially today.

BERKES: Boy, were they. The two-medal haul in the Super G generated a wave of statistics from U.S. skiing. Six medals in just four events. It's already the best American Alpine effort ever, and there are six more races left. The success so far for Miller, Weibrecht, Lindsey Vonn and Julia Mancuso has the U.S. ski team expecting more.

Miller had a smarmy explanation for the record showing at first.

Mr. BODE MILLER (U.S. Skier): Aside from the fact that we're just much better than everybody else, I think once you start to get momentum going as a team, you know, it's a group of young athletes who feed off that really easily. And I think soon as you watch your, you know, your teammates experience that joy, that excitement, it makes it much more real and much more accessible.

BERKES: Weibrecht is the newbie to the Olympics and the medals podium, and he affirmed Miller's momentum theme.

Mr. ANDREW WEIBRECHT (U.S. Skier): A little bit of momentum kind of goes a long way with Bode starting off really strong and then Julia and Lindsey having a good result. You know, momentum as a whole team kind of builds. And I think Dave helped us to believe in ourselves and put down the best runs that we can.

BERKES: We'll see if the momentum holds today when Lindsey Vonn and Julia Mancuso ski again in the women's Super G. But one thing is certain now, according to teammate Marco Sullivan - this was the Vonn show, he told reporters; now it's the U.S. ski team show.

Howard Berkes, NPR News, Whistler.

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