Bode Miller’s back for another season – for now
November 7, 2010
VAIL, Colo. – Bode Miller’s back for the start of another season. Whether he’s around for the finish remains a big mystery even to him.
The U.S. skier was swayed from retirement last year by the lure of the Vancouver Olympics, where he won gold, silver and bronze to run his career total to five Winter Games medals.
This year, there’s no such enticement dangling out there for him.
He may ski the entire World Cup season. Or he may not.
It all depends on how he feels.
“I’m not sure how long I’ll race, or if I’ll race till the world championships or what,” said Miller, of Franconia, N.H. “As of right now, I’m starting.”
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And where he finishes is anybody’s guess.
Miller kept a somewhat low profile after Vancouver as he contemplated his future. He said he didn’t so much decide to return to the slopes this season as get swept up in the growing ground swell, preferring to just go with the moment. The next thing he knew he was back on skis, training with the team.
“I didn’t make a decision. Everyone else just kind of assumed that I was racing again,” Miller said. “Before I knew it, I was doing training camps and everything was planned.”
Miller has long marched to his own beat, a trait that’s made him one of the best in the ski business. It’s also made him hard to figure out, even though he speaks as freely as he skis.
Sometimes Miller is reflective, giving insightful glimpses into his world of go-for-broke skiing.
Other times, he’s reticent, preferring to blame the media for its infatuation with results.
Over the weekend after a training session in Vail, he was a touch of both. He enjoys being around the energy from the next generation of skiers on the team, but thinks way too much emphasis is placed on podiums.
“The results are a really easy and natural thing to feed on,” Miller said. “You can get on someone’s (case) when they blow out or when they fail or when they lose. You can pump their tires and jump on board the train when they win.”
Miller said he’s rarely been driven by results. That’s why he’s able to straddle the line between control and chaos, taking a gambler’s approach to skiing.
The approach served him well in Whistler, where he claimed three medals – gold in super-combined, silver in super-G and bronze in downhill. He’s also won 32 times on the World Cup circuit by zooming down courses without worrying about wiping out.
“I’ve never been very bent on what I accomplish or not,” Miller said. “I like racing, I like training, so that’s why I’m doing it. It’s always been the same. There’s nothing different or new there.”
Any chance he’ll be back for the Sochi Winter Olympics in 2014?
“That’s pretty far,” he said.
His teammates wouldn’t put it past him, though.
“You never know what’s going to happen with him,” 2006 Olympic gold medalist Ted Ligety said. “I wouldn’t be entirely surprised.”
At 33, Miller remains in remarkably good shape, especially considering his all-out approach that has led to plenty of crashes and spills. He’s also shed some weight and worked hard on his fitness.
The plan this season revolves around skiing all disciplines, not just the downhill and super-G.
Last season, he didn’t earn a single World Cup point in the giant slalom. He won a world championship in that discipline in 2003.
“Bode came on to the scene in tech and he likes to stay with his roots and he has something to improve in regard to slalom and (giant slalom) right now,” U.S. men’s technical coach Mike Day said.
Day has known Miller for quite some time. He helped coach a young Miller when the two were at Carrabassett Valley Academy, a ski school in Maine.
He thinks Miller sometimes receives a bad rap for his aggressive style, especially in the waning years of his career.
“His high-risk style was something maybe when he was younger that came out a lot more,” Day said. “In the speed events right now, in my opinion, with the experience he has, I don’t think it is that high risk. For him, he knows the track well now, he knows tactically what he wants to do.
“In my opinion, he’s skiing in a fashion that’s within himself right now.”
As for Miller’s use of a motor home in Europe, Day doesn’t think it should be an issue.
When Miller left the U.S. team several seasons ago, one of the reasons was that the team saw his motor home as a source of division.
That stance has softened.
“Bode is a massive asset to the U.S. Ski Team and to have him back involved with the ski team is critical,” Day said. “It only makes sense from a management perspective for him to have some private space.”
As for Miller’s motivation this season, especially without an Olympics looming, Day simply pointed out toward the hill.
“He loves to do this,” Day said. “If you love to do something and can still do it competitively, I don’t see any reason why you wouldn’t continue to do it.”
Contentment willing, of course.
“As long as I’m having fun and feel good, and my body isn’t hurting, I’ll keep going,” Miller said.