Bode Miller's Heavy Heart And Sixth Olympic Medal
Sochi, Russia (special to SnoCountry.com): After finally winning a medal on a warm Sunday afternoon in Sochi, the greatest Olympic skier in United States history was reduced to tears.
Bode Miller now has six medals at the Olympic Winter Games after a tie for the bronze at Rosa Khutor. But after crossing the finish and awaiting the valiant silver medal effort of teammate Andrew Weibrecht, Miller only had thoughts of his brother.
Chelone (Chilly) Miller’s presence rushed through Bode in the aftermath of the race. Chilly Miller was found 10 months ago in a van near Mammoth Mountain, Calif. Authorities said Bode’s younger brother, a snowboarder who charged in the manner made famous by Bode, had succumbed to a seizure.
And in that flash of time when the performance meets back story, the end result is an uncut display of a man’s heart.
“There were some questions and comments about losing my brother in this past year,” said Miller, of the NBC interview with veteran ski racer, Olympic medalist and commentator Christin Cooper. “It was really hard for myself, my family, our whole community. I’ve been a focal point for them over the years with my racing. Yeah….there was a lot of emotion. To have everything go as well as they did today, I was fortunate to come out with a medal. Everything felt pretty raw and pretty connected. It was a lot for me.”
But sensitivity wasn’t always part of Miller’s DNA. He was the face of American skiing at the turn of the new century. A huge talent with a hell bent style, Miller made fans with his skis and his mouth: in both cases you never knew which way they were going.
Miller has won over 30 World Cup events in five disciplines, and scored his first Olympic medals with two silvers in Salt Lake City. He will take his place among skiing’s all-time greats.
“I grew up watching (Kjetil Andre) Aamodt, Lasse (Kjus) and Herman (Maier) and all those three and four event skiers compete in the Olympics,” Miller said. “To be in the group with those guys….it’s pretty overwhelming. When you look at your body of work for your whole adult life, in a phrase, or visual context, it makes it more raw emotionally.”
Yet as much as he has achieved, coaches and critics wonder what might have been had the 36-year-old, who says he never skied for the medals, throttled back the attack when needed, and skied more tactically.
“The mistakes I make are costly and they cost me today,” he stated. “But they are mistakes born of intensity and focus and probably pushing too hard. I’ve dealt with that a lot in my career. And if there’s a fault I can accept is that I push too hard in the big moments. I don’t like to come down and think that I skied 80 percent even though these days in these conditions, skiing 80 percent would get me more medals. But that doesn’t feel right. So I ski as hard as I can and deal with the consequences.”
After Miller’s super-G medal, he raced in the giant slalom, tweaked a knee, and finished 20th. Now it’s back to the World Cup tour which has three weeks remaining.
Then it becomes a question of what will occur next with Miller. When his skiing days finally conclude is undetermined. But when it happens, the world of ski racing will have surely lost not only a unique talent, but a personality to match.
Photo: Bode Miller (right) with Andrew Weibrecht at Sochi (Tom Kelly/USST)