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Archive for Sunday, February 12, 2006

Miller, Ohno hope to make a name

February 12, 2006

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— It's not unusual to find two guys in Italy with vowels at the end of their names. There's something a little different, though, about Bode and Apolo.

Both are two-time Olympic medalists with high expectations and higher profiles. Skier Bode Miller, who recently confessed to SWI (skiing while intoxicated), inserts his feet into his mouth as often as his ski boots. Short track speedskater Apolo Anton Ohno, with his trademark wisp of facial hair and bandanna, enjoys rock-star status among his fans.

Today, the pair get their first taste of 2006 Olympic action: Miller in one of the games' top attractions, the men's downhill, and Ohno in the men's 1,500 short track speedskating. They're already trailing the U.S. team's first gold medalist, speedskater Chad Hedrick, who captured the 5,000 meters Saturday.

Oddly, both Miller and Ohno uncharacteristically were silent before their Turin appearances. Miller blew off reporters Saturday after his final training run, while Ohno told reporters that his spartan existence in Italy included only eating, sleeping and training.

And that's despite the presence of his girlfriend, short track skater Allison Baver.

NBC is hoping for more from both Olympians, whose events anchor the prime-time schedule as the first weekend of the Turin Games wraps up. A marathon 41â2-hour evening session, the network's second-longest during the games, is set for tonight.

Miller, winner of two silver medals in 2002, leads an international cast of skiing greats in the downhill, the sport's showcase event. One of his top challengers is teammate Daron Rahlves, the understated ying to Miller's outrageous yang.

While Bode was snubbing the press, Rahvles was more than happy to talk about his chances of emerging with the gold from a field that features reigning World Cup downhill champion Michael Walchhofer and reigning Olympic gold medalist Fritz Strobl, both of Austria; their teammate, Herman Maier, whose past dominance led to his designation as "The Herminator"; and Norway's six-time Olympic medalist, Kjetil Andre Aamdodt (three gold, two silver, one bronze).

"I'm pretty relaxed and chill right now and definitely ready to ski this hill," Rahlves said Saturday. "... I'm just trying to get myself prepped and ready to go."

Miller, on the other hand, already has said plenty. In pre-Olympics interviews, he admitted skiing while "wasted" - and then accused Barry Bonds and Lance Armstrong of taking

performance-enhancing drugs.

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