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Lindsey Vonn looks to build on US skiing's best-ever Olympics

The US has won six alpine skiing medals in the first four events, the most it has ever won in a single Winter Olympics – and Lindsey Vonn's best event, the super-G, is today.

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Retired, exhausted, and two years removed from a messy divorce from the US ski team, Miller appeared to have nowhere to go last summer. His results in the season just ended had been poor, and the team he had put together to support him on the World Cup circuit had splintered.

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If Miller’s career was not finished, it at least appeared to be in steep decline.

Miller's renaissance

But that’s not how US coach Sasha Rearick saw it. “What I thought was possible is that he could put down inspiring runs, and that’s why I wanted him back,” he said Friday.

That one word – “inspiring” – has been the spark that has pulled Miller from the margins of skiing to a two-time medalist in these Games.

“That’s one of the things I wanted to bring back,” Miller said Friday.

It has already had an effect on Weibrecht. “With top 15 results on some of the world's most daunting courses, he'd proven that he was talented, but maybe showed that he still needed to take that extra step – attacking the course with sheer abandon – to go from top 10 or top 15 to top 3,” writes Shauna Farnell, who is covering the Games for Ski Racing magazine, in an e-mail.

Weibrecht said he took his inspiration from an unusual source: the fact that Miller has crashed out of more than 150 World Cup races. Likening Weibrecht to himself, Bode says: “[Andrew] makes a lot of mistakes, too. He goes too hard sometimes.”

But having the examples set by Miller, Vonn, and Mancuso “have helped us to believe in ourselves,” Weibrecht said.

Mancuso's 'Olympic magic'

What, exactly, has helped Mancuso to believe in herself after three on-again, off-again years, however, is a mystery.

Mancuso is an “extremely talented skier, but until these Games, she has made only small, somewhat inconsistent steps on her way to getting back to the winning form she was in three years ago,” writes Farnell.

In particular, her silver in the combined Thursday was “jolting,” given Mancuso’s past lack of success in the slalom. But her sensational slalom run in the combined showed that the skill “was lying dormant somewhere inside of her and was suddenly awakened at the Games,” writes Farnell.

She would not be the first to be transformed by what Farnell calls “Olympic magic.”

Miller puts it another way: When Austrians tell you about being inspired by skiing as a kid, they’ll talk about the hundreds of World Cup races they’ve seen, how their uncle skied in a World Cup. But for Americans, it’s all about the Olympics.

“Americans more so than other nations are inspiration-driven” at the Olympics, he said.

And this year, that is true of Miller, too. “Bode is using the energy of the Olympics to have his best races all year,” said coach Rearick. “He said he was going to peak here, and he’s doing what he set out to do.”

Rearick added: “I never thought about where we’d be except that we’d come out and ski the way we can – that we’d put down runs we can be proud of."

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Follow the Olympics blow-by-blow on Twitter feeds by Christa and Mark.

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