BEAVER CREEK, Colo. (AP) — Shhhh, don't tell Ted Ligety this, Bode Miller playfully warned, but he believes he can beat his American counterpart.
In the giant slalom even, Ligety's signature event.
"Yeah, I think so," Miller said.
Miller's swagger is definitely back, just like his skiing.
Nearly two years removed from career threatening surgery on his left knee, Miller is in solid position to win a World Cup giant slalom race Sunday. Soon after Ligety navigated the technical course to near perfection to take the lead, Miller had the crowd on its feet with an electric run. He's in second place, just 1.10 seconds behind Ligety, heading into the final run. Marcel Hirscher of Austria is third.
Miller attacked the deteriorating course like the Miller of old, taking gambles at every turn. Miller is quickly rounding into form after sitting out all of last season as he strengthened his surgically repaired knee.
He's confident heading into the final run as Ligety chases after his fourth straight World Cup giant slalom victory. Italy's Alberto Tomba last accomplished that feat in 1991.
"Ted is so good at what he does and nobody is testing him right now, because everyone is trying to do what he does," Miller said. "I don't do what he does. I ski round in some parts and unbelievably straight in other parts.
"I have to ski perfect, because he goes very close to perfect all the time."
These days, Miller is working with trainer Gavin MacMillan, whose clients also include boxer Manny Pacquiao, Steelers safety Troy Polamalu and UFC star Georges St. Pierre. Miller and MacMillan are trying to get that knee back into shape without weights, but with more of a plyometric approach using elastic bands.
"We've done a ton of work to strengthen his feet, his hips and his lower back, so that he can really improve his ability to change direction at high speed and not get his legs worn out," MacMillan said.
So far, it appears to be working.
"This (course), at least physically, is demanding. By the time you get to the last bit, you're tired," said Miller, who's dropped 20 pounds to be more agile on the hill. "But I was still able to push all the way down. I'm really psyched that my fitness held up."
After finishing his first run, Miller swooped up his young daughter, Dacey, and then headed toward the warmth of the lodge accompanied by his wife, Morgan, who he married in October 2012.
This was the kind of run she's been waiting to see.
"It was awesome," Morgan Miller said. "You know he tries so hard and works so hard, but when all the pieces come together, it's a beautiful thing.
"Everyone is so nervous because he's so skinny. But he's so strong right now."
Bode Miller started his day communicating via Skype with his young son from another relationship.
Soon after the race, he will head to New York for a custody hearing Monday involving his son — the 9-month-old child's legal name is Samuel Bode after his father, but Miller calls him Nathaniel. The mother, Sara McKenna, currently has custody of the child in New York.
Asked if that was possibly weighing on his mind, Morgan Miller said: "We know someday we're going to get to a really good place with this. We're really positive and excited.
"It's a process," she added. "But we're having a great time. Life is good."