After Torino flop, Vancouver is Bode’s Olympics
WHISTLER, British Columbia – Bode Miller hates the Olympics.
He rails about what he considers a misguided emphasis on medals and the rampant commercialism, along with “the corruption and the abuse and the money.”
That’s why he tuned out at the 2006 Torino Games – because “being the poster boy for that, when it’s the absolute thing I despised the most in the world, was really draining on my inspiration, my level of passion.”
And, true to his contrarian streak, Bode Miller also loves the Olympics.
“It has all the best things in sports,” he explained. “It has amazing energy and enthusiasm, passion, inspiration. It’s what changes lives. In that sense, it’s the pinnacle of what sports and camaraderie and all that stuff is.”
That’s why he is thriving at the 2010 Vancouver Games: “You really get the chills. You feel the crowd. You feel all the energy. You feel the expectation. You feel everything.”
These Olympics have become Bode’s Olympics. After seriously contemplating retirement last summer, the 32-year-old from Franconia, N.H., has won three medals in three races, including the first Olympic gold of his stellar career, and there are two more events to come, Tuesday’s giant slalom and Saturday’s slalom.
“He’s back, like never before,” Switzerland’s Silvan Zurbriggen said after taking the bronze to Miller’s gold in Sunday’s super-combined, which adds times from one downhill and one slalom.
Miller has to be considered among the top contenders Tuesday, given his current form and attitude, not to mention his past success in giant slalom: He won a silver medal at the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics, a gold at the 2003 world championships and the season-long World Cup GS title in 2004.
If he does put in yet another top-3 finish this week, Miller would be the first man to collect four Alpine medals at a single Olympics. As it is, his five career Olympic medals, including two silvers in 2002, are the most for a U.S. Alpine skier and tied for second-most by a man from any country.
Even as he insists medals don’t matter – “I don’t know why everyone always thinks I’m lying about that” – Miller does appreciate the significance of what could lie ahead.
“For me, the measure of a ski racer is really how versatile they are, how close to five events you can become proficient at or the best at,” Miller said after Sunday night’s medal ceremony. “To do it at one Olympics … requires a lot of luck. It requires a lot of things. That’s why no one’s done it before. Not because they’re not capable, but it just requires a lot of things to go your way.”
On a roll, he continued: “But I am in a good position to do it. But that doesn’t guarantee me anything. But I’m racing the other two, so I have a chance.”
Just like Miller to start three consecutive sentences with the word “but.” He’s long been one to see the counter-argument to any assertion, even his own.
Make him the favorite to win a race, and he’ll flop.
Dismiss his chances, and he’ll win.
Raise the idea that he’s changed as a person after becoming a father, and he’ll scoff.
Entertain the notion that you’re beginning to understand him, and he’ll set you straight.
“Bode is Bode. If you tell him in the Olympics at Torino, ‘Focus, and do your best,’ I think sometimes he just does the opposite. Just for fun. Just because he doesn’t like authority,” said Liechtenstein’s Marco Buechel, a World Cup veteran at his sixth Winter Games. “He would have had a great chance there. He did it his way, and it didn’t work out. And I think he learned from that.”
Don’t expect Miller to endorse the redemption story everyone else is telling, though.
“I got asked that – if I took revenge,” he said. “I was like, ‘I don’t know who you get revenge on. Myself, maybe?”‘
In his mind, Torino was Torino, and Vancouver is Vancouver.
Miller has his reasons for why, back then, he lived in his own RV, apart from the rest of the U.S. Ski Team, proudly partied into the wee hours, and only managed to finish two of five events, never better than fifth.
He also has his reasons for why, these days, he is sleeping in the same condo as the other Americans, joining in their spirited Wii games during down time, pushing and being pushed during training runs on the slopes. After two World Cup seasons training and competing on his own, he came back to the fold in September.
U.S. men’s coach Sasha Rearick is thrilled to have him around.
“Bode’s role is to challenge each other, push the limits of what we can do,” Rearick said. “He helps inspire me.”
Miller woke up at 5:45 a.m. Sunday, grabbed some coffee and gave himself a pep talk. He was seventh-fastest in that morning’s downhill. Shortly before racing in the afternoon’s slalom, he said, “I started to get that bouncy feeling, where everything hones in, and you start to feel the shivers a little bit.”
Duly inspired, he produced a slalom run that ranked with the best of his life.
“It’s an amazing feeling to go out and ski that way. It was just free. I was skiing very free and going for the 100 percent gas. Normally that doesn’t work out that well for me in slalom,” Miller said with a chuckle, “but today it did.”
Yes, everything seems to be working out quite well for Bode Miller at this Olympics, and he loves it.
– AP national writer Joji Sakurai contributed to this report.
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