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It's Miller time as Bode goes from zero to hero

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Anna Thompson | 00:50 UK time, Monday, 22 February 2010

Bode Miller claimed he was America's most hated sportsman when he returned home from the last Winter Olympics empty-handed but full of bravado about partying in his rock star-style tour bus and drinking before races.

He then spectacularly fell out with the US ski team, who got fed up with his antics, and formed his own Team America to carry on competing on the World Cup stage.

Just six months ago, he was seriously considering retiring from the sport, preferring to play golf, hang out at the beach and play with his toddler daughter Neesyn Dacey.

But then came the announcement before the season started in October. He was back in the US Ski Team fold and wanted another crack at winning an elusive Olympic gold.

And in true Miller style, he has gone from zero to hero at these Games, finally delivering his life's dream of an Olympic title in the men's combined, to prove he is the ultimate ski all-rounder.

The American from New Hampshire was unusually emotional afterwards, saying: "To execute the race the way I did today is something I will be proud of for the rest of my life."

Which is quite a statement from him considering he almost turned his back on the sport he had grown to hate.

But, for whatever reason, he has fallen back in love with it, and racing is a joy again for the 32-year-old who is rightly one of the best ski racers in history, his name equal among the greats of Jean Claude Killy, Franz Klammer, Pirmin Zurbriggen and Hermann Maier.

Miller's medal tally is truly remarkable - five Olympic medals so far (one gold, three silvers and a bronze), plus four World Championship golds and World Cup titles to boot.

bode595afp.jpg
With Olympic gold, Miller has finally fulfilled the potential which marked him as a star from an early age

But as former British skier and now Ski Sunday presenter Graham Bell told me: "It's not about the pots on the shelf for Bode.

"He's not a percentage man like Benni Raich, who will ski conservatively to make sure he gets down and gets a medal.

"Bode's not interested in that. The motivation for Bode is pushing the boundaries, skiing as fast as possible, even if it's risky."

Miller started skiing at the age of three and by 10 was racing, although he liked to snowboard, too.

His do-or-die attitude is loved by ski fans, especially in Austria where he has a huge fan base, but sometimes belies a determined man who has revolutionised ski competition - from his style of racing to the ski technology used (he brought in hourglass skis).

And it's a remarkable change of Olympic fortunes after his miserable Turin experience.

After winning the downhill and super-G at the 2005 World Championships in Bormio, Miller was the hot favourite - probably unrealistically - to sweep the board at the 2006 Games.

But he blew his medal chances in the downhill and giant slalom, did not finish either the super-G and slalom, and was disqualified from the combined.

His night-time activities were coming to the fore, and he enraged the already annoyed US media by hopping over security fences to escape being interviewed by them.

But that sorry saga has now been forgotten, and in Whistler he declared: "The level I skied today is right at the very, very top.

"You can't get that just on call - it's not like you turn a key and magically ski your absolute best - but when you are at the Olympics, with the energy and everything else, you can use that to bring your game up.

"There is a huge element of luck involved but it feels absolutely amazing."

Former British slalom skier Alain Baxter felt Miller's late decision to race this season had actually benefitted him.

"Bode has peaked just at the right time and with his head in the right place, he has been amazing to watch," said the Scot.

But what will Miller do next? He hasn't yet decided whether he will carry on racing or not.

"Bode is a loose cannon and impossible to coach," said Bell. "He will always do his own thing. He comes across as a laid back dude, but Bode is always in control.

"Sometimes he will blank me for an interview at the end of a race but then bore me for an hour in the bar later, talking in great detail about what had happened. But that's Bode for you, you never know what you're going to get."

Comments

  • 1. At 11:08am on 22 Feb 2010, Flodden wrote:

    Who is the greatest skier of all time? Why do the French no longer have great skiers? Are Conrad Bartelski and Alain Baxter Britains best ever skiers?

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  • 2. At 1:17pm on 22 Feb 2010, Dean Barrow wrote:

    To me this is the positve story of the games and his slalom yesterday was top drawer, he was faster than Kostelic, Zubriggen and Raich who are all top class slalom skiers and arguably 2 of them are likely favourites for the slalom gold at the weekend

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  • 3. At 1:17pm on 22 Feb 2010, noah1r wrote:

    Your winter sports passion is noted, but your knowledge needs some fine-tuning.

    I'm not disputing any of the names you declared as "the best ski racers in history" but surely you'd forgotten one of the greatest. Kjetil Andre Aamodt. Unforgiveable really.
    FYI - He is the most decorated Alpine skier in Olympic history.

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  • 4. At 1:26pm on 22 Feb 2010, DCHeretic wrote:

    Count me among the Americans who were disappointed with Bode after the Turin Games. I could care less if he medals or not. I do care, however, if he does not take the Games seriously. In Turin he was out late at night drinking and partying before his events. Bode's behavior was disrespectful to the US, his teammates, and most importantly, those prospective Olympians who would have liked to have had his place on the team.

    It appears that Bode has matured and his new attituide has earned him redemption. He is taking the competition seriously and being a good teammate. I wish him all the best in the world. America is a land of second (and third, fourth, etc.) chances and Bode deserves forgiveness for past mistakes.

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  • 5. At 1:36pm on 22 Feb 2010, summerbayexile wrote:

    Along with Anya Persson's bronze in the Women's combined, my favourite medal of the games. Fantastic to see Bode pull it out at the last moment. He richly deserves it for bringing real colour to skiing. Well done, Bode!

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  • 6. At 3:17pm on 22 Feb 2010, Aldebaranian wrote:

    Nice to see Miller winning although the hyperbole here is well over the top. I don't think he is worthy of mentioning together with the names you list and the list is anyway pretty poor: Firstly no Stenmark?? and then no Norwegians, while both Aamodt (as noah1r mentioned above) and Kjus are well above Miller. Personally I wouldn't have Miller in my top 30 even, except for colour and entertainment. But he adds great colour to the event, which is why it is so nice to see him on the top of the podium.

    Slightly unrelated: In fact I have never understood the total love-in with Herman Maier whilst Aamodt never gets a mention on BBC skiing coverage - is that because Herminator is such a great nickname? [of course Maier is an all-time great, that's not what I have an argument with]

    PS: Just to declare conflict of interest I am Norwegian :)

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  • 7. At 3:31pm on 22 Feb 2010, Adrian Hamilton wrote:

    Please by all means celebrate the new found dedication of an undoubted talent but Miller really isn't one of the greats. He is a terrific athlete who takes massive risks with his line and backs himself to recover. He is not, however, a particularly innovative skier unlike Killy Stenmark or Tomba. Also to attribute shaped skis to him is just not true.
    We must also relise that while the outstanding Raich, Svindal, Cuche etc. have been showing massive respect for the sport and the circuit by racing week in week out, Miller has taken long breaks obviously to prepare himself for this one event.
    I get so tired of hearing commentators criticising the likes of Raich because he is professional and has a different approach while waxing lyrical about Miller and his antics. Raich by the way has won more World Cup races than Miller.
    Sunday's performance was tremendous and I am pleased that this fine skier who has in the past treated the great sport with some disdain has now paid it back by his new found commitment but let's not get his place in skiing history out of proportion.

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  • 8. At 3:39pm on 22 Feb 2010, HottBlackDesiato wrote:

    RE: DCHeretic,

    If America is the land of 2nd, 3rd, 4th chances why was Chris Delbosco thrown off the team for smoking weed?

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  • 9. At 8:21pm on 22 Feb 2010, feedbackdestroyer wrote:

    What about a mention for Ingemar Stenmar and Alberto Tomba if we are talking about the world's greatest ski racers?

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  • 10. At 9:23pm on 22 Feb 2010, ScotDavey wrote:

    Skitools1 is right....
    I love to watch Miller race..... millions of years ago when I raced I either finished top 3 or crashed out.
    However...I also got to see Stenmark race for 3 years and no skier ever dominated a course like he did. Winning margins were at times humiliatingly ridiculous. Tomba was another stud, but slalom was mainly his race. Stenmark dominated slalom and GS. And he was a class act. Tomba could be a bit of an arrogant clown.
    Pirmin Zurbriggen would be another one I'd rank above Bode.
    herminator?? Nah....cool nickname....media loves that kind of superficial crap.
    Aamodt was another versatile and dominant skier.
    Has this journo ever watched more than just a few minutes of ski racing??

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  • 11. At 05:46am on 23 Feb 2010, Anna Thompson-BBC Sport wrote:

    Hi all, thanks for your comments. Re greatest skiers I should have mentioned Aamodt and can't believe he went out of my head. There are others too who can probably lay claim to being one of the greatest skiers, inclucing Alberto Tomba (a personal fave of mine)... but this is what the blog is all about, good debate, and you've all provided it. Cheers

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  • 12. At 08:29am on 23 Feb 2010, Fed_Borg wrote:

    Oh no Anna, you are not getting away that easily.
    Not mentioning Alberto Tomba, Ingmar Stenmark and Kjetil Andre Aamodt really is an error.
    I am from Kenya, I hardly get to watch any races but the little I do get to see are really great.

    Bode Miller might have generated a good story, but not much else!!

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  • 13. At 09:09am on 23 Feb 2010, Colin Gartshore wrote:

    I'd dispute that anyone can be called great if the didn't race and win downhill, for me Killy, Klammer and Zurbriggen are top of the tree. And those three also won on the Hahnenkamm, another pre-requisite for 'greatness'. Maybe Bode will keep trying there for another year or two.

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  • 14. At 2:56pm on 23 Feb 2010, Mike wrote:

    What a lot of people don’t get about Alpine Skiing is how hard it is to even medal at an Olympic games.

    When Usain Bolt goes into a race, he knows that if he performs at 70-80%, there still isn’t anyone who can beat him. Ditto for a lot of athletes.

    The gap between the best 7-8 skiers in the world is minute. Any of them can potentially win, at any event.

    Being the best skier in the world at a chosen event, means next to nothing in Alpine skiing, unless you turn up and have the race of your life. Anything else, and someone will beat you.

    When your talking “all time greats” in skiing history, many of them don’t even have an Olympic Gold. Some only medalled 2-3 times at Olympics. That’s how hard it is.

    So when you have Bode Miller, having 5 Olympic medals (gold, 3 silver, and bronze) and 4 world championship golds. As well as 2 overall world championship titles…….


    You seriously have to consider putting him in the top 5 alpine skiers of all time. Certainly the greatest ever American.

    A classic example of how hard it is to win a gold in skiing is this years down hill. Bode Miller probably put in one of the greatest downhill performances of all time, and only just medalled.

    The gap between gold and Bronze was 0.007!

    If that race happened 10 times, he’d have won gold in 7-8 of them with that time.

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  • 15. At 3:00pm on 23 Feb 2010, Mike wrote:

    Adrian Hamilton

    I'm not sure how you can rank Raich as being better than Miller, other than you just happen to appreciate Raich's character a bit more.

    Bode Miller has won more Olympic Medals than Raich, and twice as many World Championship golds. What's more he's medalled in every single olympic disicpline

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  • 16. At 3:13pm on 23 Feb 2010, Mike wrote:

    Aldebaranian


    “I personally wouldn’t have him in the top 30 of all time”

    You’re really just demonstrating how any discussion on Bode Miller is largely based on whether people happen to like his personality or not.

    It’s kind of like Floyd Mayweather in boxing. People ignoring what he does in the ring, and focussing on what he says in press conferences.

    Firstly, even statistically, guys like Stenmark and Kjus don’t even surpass Miller.

    He’s won more Olympic medals than Stenmark, and many more world championship golds.

    Kjus just doesn’t compare in either category. Miller has won many more Olympic medals, and many more world championship medals.

    So seriously, bearing in mind, on medal counts, Miller has more than both, how you can claim he’s not in an all time top 30 is beyond me!?

    As I said, his personality and nationality polarizes.

    However, there aren’t that many skiers that even match his Olympic medal count. Let alone his world championship haul.

    Miller is easy top 10 all time. On any category you wish to bring up

    Olympic medals
    World championship medals
    Overall world championships

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  • 17. At 3:18pm on 23 Feb 2010, Mike wrote:

    "I'd dispute that anyone can be called great if the didn't race and win downhill, for me Killy, Klammer and Zurbriggen are top of the tree. And those three also won on the Hahnenkamm, another pre-requisite for 'greatness'. Maybe Bode will keep trying there for another year or two."

    Can't agree. As I said, a lot of the disapproval is:

    A: Nationality
    B: Character

    Miller has medalled, olympically at almost every single disipline. Not even your precious Norwegians have managed that.

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  • 18. At 3:26pm on 23 Feb 2010, Mike wrote:

    PS.

    Bode was incredibly fast in this years Downhill, and the Super G. His downhill in particular – he would have won gold with that sort of performance in other years.

    So I really wouldn’t write him off from another medal (maybe even gold) in today’s giant slalom.

    If he wins a medal in the slalom as well, then hmmmmm, you’ll have to bring serious consideration to whether it’s the greatest Olymipics ever for an Alpine Skier. Certainly in modern times.

    His 2 times for the Slalom in the combine would have got him bronze for that event. And let’s remember, that was including all the dedicated slalom specialists in the field.


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  • 19. At 7:03pm on 23 Feb 2010, lounge_lizard wrote:

    You FORGOT Kjetil Andre Aamodt??

    Oh dear! LOL! YOU NEVER HEARD OF HIM HAVE YOU GIRL?

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  • 20. At 09:34am on 24 Feb 2010, Adrian Hamilton wrote:

    In response to Mike's comments I wouldn't rank Raich as an all time great either. I was merely making the point that while he is dismissed because of his less flamboyant style and character he is actually more succesful in the bread and butter of the sport, namely the World Cup. I believe that this is the true test of a ski racers greatness. Olympic Games and World Championships have regularly thrown up winners and medalists who are not really the best. Also for Graham Bell to say that Raich doesn't take risks and plays it safe to win a medal is not worthy of a man with his racing background.

    For me Miller would be part of a second group of skiers behind the true greats; a group which would include Kjus, Aamodt, Raich, Thoeni, Mahre and Eberharter.

    I don't think it will be long until Aksel Lund Svindal is elevated to the status of 'Great.' 2 overall world cups and an equal medal haul to Miller's at this games and he still has many more years left to leave a mark.

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  • 21. At 9:52pm on 24 Feb 2010, Stats wrote:

    No of World Championship medals:
    1:Aamodt 12; 2:Girardelli 11; 3:Kjus 11; 4:Zurbriggen 9; (16:Miller 5)

    No of Olympic medals:
    1:Aamodt 8; 2:Kjus 5; 2:Miller 5

    Most WC wins:
    1:Stenmark 86; 2:Maier 54; 3:Tomba 50; 4:Girardelli 46

    Skiers with wins in all 5 events:
    Girardelli, Zurbriggen, Aamodt, Miller, Killy, Mader, Duvillard

    Most WC overall cup wins:
    Girardelli 5; Thöni 4; Zurbriggen 4; Maier 4; Stenmark 3; P. Mahre 3


    Overall greatest World Cup: Girardelli
    Overall greatest championships: Aamodt

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