Bode Miller talks of ‘distressing’ season in pain
The Associated Press
Aspen, CO Colorado
WENGEN, Switzerland ” Bode Miller’s ankle injury is hurting his skiing and his head.
The American says his injured left ankle is slowly wrecking the defense of his World Cup title and pursuit of gold medals at the world championships next month.
Worse, it is killing the fun of skiing for the 31-year-old star from Francona, N.H., who has long been known for his carefree approach.
“I have both physical and mental pain when I ski right now,” said Miller, whose second place in the classic Lauberhorn downhill Saturday stretched his season-long winless streak to 19 races.
“I try as hard as I can, but if I’m not 100 percent physically it makes it tough for me,” he said at the post-race news conference in a converted Wengen schoolroom.
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From his desk on a raised plinth, Miller patiently answered questions, pausing while a helicopter that traditionally ferries the top three finishers to the makeshift media center landed below the third-floor window, bringing race winner Didier Defago of Switzerland to the session.
“Every day my ankle hurts,” Miller said. “I’m not able to ski at the level that I want to ski at. That’s little bit distressing over a long period of time. Especially when you don’t have the results and you have to deal with all the other stuff that comes along with that.”
The other stuff includes regular reminders that having only three runner-up finishes so far this season is below the expectations for a skier whose 31 career World Cup wins ” including six last year ” are a U.S. record.
“Really, the results have been pretty poor,” Miller said.
Wengen, where he had won the past two Lauberhorn downhills, seemed an ideal spot to regain his touch.
Miller skied after Defago down the 2.8-mile course, but was around two-tenths of a second behind at every time split.
He described the effect of his ankle injury, sustained when clipping a gate with his left ski in a Dec. 5 downhill at Beaver Creek, Colo., saying that when his knee presses forward, it pulls the ankle apart inside the rigid boot.
“It’s only in the ski boot that it hurts,” Miller said. “It’s a little bit frustrating on these downhills where there’s a lot of really hard left turns. I just don’t really have the power to do what I want to do.”
Though Defago was a hugely popular home winner for the record Lauberhorn crowd of 29,000, fans in the finish area were silent when Miller was the only man on the course, allowing his run to be shown in full on a giant screen.
Miller finished 0.20 seconds behind Defago’s time of 2 minutes, 31.98 seconds on the ski circuit’s longest and most demanding course. Marco Sullivan of the United States was third, trailing Defago by 0.39.
Sullivan said he wanted to reach a downhill podium alongside Miller, who skies independently of the official U.S. team.
“It’s really special,” the 28-year-old from Tahoe City, Calif. said. “Daron (Rahlves) and Bode used to always podium together.”
The last time two American men shared a podium after a downhill was Dec. 2006, when Miller and Steven Nyman finished 1-3 at Beaver Creek.
Sullivan was watched on course by his father, Paul, who traveled from California, and his sister Chelsea Robinson and brother-in-law Trevor, from Jackson Hole, Wyo.
“I think that was a little motivation to ski fast,” Sullivan said. “My dad has never been to Europe. He got to see me and it was a special day.”
Sasha Rearick, head coach of the U.S. team, said Sullivan skied the top of the course “like an absolute stud.”
The nine-man American challenge had its rough moments. Scott Macartney of Redmond, Wash., crashed out hard in the top half, while TJ Lanning of Park City, Utah, and Nyman of Provo, Utah, fell at the S-bend in sight of the finish line.
Andrew Weibrecht of Lake Placid, N.Y., earned a World Cup point in 30th, trailing by 3.99.
Austria’s Michael Walchhofer retained the lead in the downhill standings despite finishing 26th, while Miller climbed from sixth to second. Sullivan rose to 10th.
Benjamin Raich of Austria, who did not race Saturday, retains the lead in the overall standings, 593-536 on Jean-Baptiste Grange of France. The two will be among the favorites for a two-run slalom Sunday.
While Miller won’t be favored, he’ll race.
“We’ve come up with a new system in slalom which hopefully makes it less likely to get hurt again,” he said. “I’m pretty stubborn. I pretty much go out there and keep going.”
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Puckett was a five-time Olympian and World Cup skier