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Bode Miller was a star at the Olympics eight years ago and a flop four years ago. Yesterday he won a bronze medal in the men's downhill making him the first American skier to own three alpine medals, and he has still more races to come. At the ski courses in Whistler, British Columbia, the forecast calls for snow and fog, and too much of either could force more delays in the Olympic schedule. From Whistler, NPR's Howard Berkes reports.

HOWARD BERKES: New snow makes it harder for Olympic officials to keep the skiing surface solid and consistent, and thick fog makes skiing too dangerous. Bode Miller is scheduled today to go for medal number two in the men's super-combined, which mixes downhill and slalom. And when he and other skiers finally got to race in the downhill yesterday, they were greeted by a crowd celebrating the arrival of alpine.

(Soundbite of music)

BERKES: Two kids with fiddles played as the crowd of 6,000 streamed in, including a heard of flag-draped Swiss fans clanging cow bells big enough for Paul Bunyan's big blue eyes. The crowd was so relieved that alpine skiing had begun that even the rival Swiss and Canadians cheered wildly when American Bode Miller raced.

(Soundbite of crowd cheering)

BERKES: Miller took the lead in the break-neck all-out, just-get-down-the-hill-fast race in the first chapter of a comeback attempt that could include as many as four more races at these Olympics. He was bad-boy-Bode four years ago at the Torino Games, interested more in partying, it seemed, performing poorly on the slopes, and abandoning the U.S. Ski Team for his own coaches funding and training. After the race, Miller said his return to the U.S. team and the Olympics was made...

Mr. BODE MILLER (Olympic Skier): ...with a pretty clean slate. I didn't have a lot of baggage. There wasn't a lot of extra pressure. There was not a business commitments, there wasn't a lot of anything. I just decided that I wanted to ski race, and if I was going to ski race I wanted to ski race in a way that would make me proud and hopefully inspire other guys in the sport, and you know, that's a much nicer feeling for me than the way I was before.

BERKES: The new way was good enough for a Bronze medal in Miller's first Olympic comeback race. He was edged out by silver medalist Aksel Lund Svindal of Norway and Didier Defago of Switzerland, who won his country's first downhill gold in 22 years. And boy did Swiss fans celebrate.

(Soundbite of singing in foreign language)

BERKES: Some of the other skiers who raced said Miller could have won the event without the flat light that made it difficult for early racers to see challenging bumps in the course. Later skiers didn't have that problem. But Miller had nothing but praise for Defago.

Fellow American Lindsey Vonn had nothing but scorn. For the women's downhill course she skied in training yesterday. The bumpiness there, she said, aggravated her painful shin injury.

Ms. LINDSEY VONN (Olympic Skier): It was like jarring, you know, it was it was a fight just to make it down. You know, I think it's probably the worst course for my shin, but I just have to be able to grit my teeth and fight through it on Wednesday. And hopefully I can still come out on top.

BERKES: Wednesday is when the women's downhill is scheduled. The weather delays of the last few days have given Vonn a chance to heal.

Ms. VONN: Having this break I can't even tell you how much it helped. And I'm really thankful that mother nature cooperated with me and someone definitely is looking out for me upstairs, so I hope that they look out again for me tomorrow and we don't have another training run and then I'll hopefully be, you know, a little bit more prepared for Wednesday.

BERKES: Weather that would scuttle Vonn's training would also likely postpone Bode Miller's second chance at a medal. Maybe today we'll find out which of these skiers is really charmed.

Howard Berkes, NPR News, Whistler.

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