What an Asshat
Hitched to Miller, U.S. Skiing Slips Off Course
By BILL PENNINGTON
SESTRIERE, Italy, Feb. 18 — Bode Miller released an autobiography last year, "Bode: Go Fast, Be Good, Have Fun."
It is catchier than "Fifth Place, Disqualified, Did Not Finish."
Those are the results for Miller after three Olympic ski races at the Turin Games. Miller, the defending world champion, a pre-Olympic news media star and a medal contender in five events, made it 0 for 3 Saturday when he slammed into a gate in the men's super-G, then teetered off the course like a weekend novice looking for somewhere soft to fall.
In a surprise, Kjetil Andre Aamodt, 34, of Norway, won the race, 14 years after he won the super-G at the Albertville Games in France. Aamodt has won eight Olympic medals, the most of any Alpine skier. Hermann Maier of Austria, whose dominance at previous Games Miller had hoped to duplicate, took the silver medal, and Ambrosi Hoffmann of Switzerland earned the bronze medal.
United States ski team officials did not discuss Miller's latest failure. Over the years, they have tolerated his wild-child act, especially after his many successes last season. But with the team having disappointing results, Miller's collapse has cast a malaise on athletes who had hoped to challenge the vaunted Austrians for dominance in Olympic Alpine skiing.
A week into the Alpine competition that was supposed to set Miller up as the most decorated American Olympic skier ever, he has finished fifth in the downhill, blown a large early lead in the combined when he straddled a gate and skidded off the racecourse in one of his best events.
"We're all having our problems, not just Bode," Daron Rahlves, another multiple-medal contender for the United States who has been shut out here, said Saturday. Rahlves finished 9th Saturday and was 10th in the downhill. "I didn't feel I had it today. I don't know what's going on exactly. It's kind of strange."
Miller's failures have been amplified by his apathetic, almost bored, postrace reactions and numerous sightings of him in the few nightclubs of this small village in the western Italian Alps. Publicly, United States ski team officials have generally not commented on Miller's performances on or off the slopes. But Miller, who won two silver medals at the 2002 Winter Games, was the face of the team and was expected to lead the American skiers to their stated goal of eight Olympic medals.
They have instead won one medal, a gold earned by a little-known 21-year-old, Ted Ligety.
In Miller, the United States ski team finds itself hitched to a mercurial contrarian who has always said he does not value medals or victories, but the team did not know that Miller would pick this fortnight to prove that he meant what he said.
"I look for objective results by my own standards," Miller said after the downhill last weekend. "And with that perspective, I skied the way I wanted to today. It was a good run."
After missing a gate in the combined, a major gaffe in a race he seemed likely to win if he avoided a significant mishap, Miller smiled and joked. His blunder meant he did not have to make the 60-mile trip to Turin for the medal ceremony the next day, or as Miller said near the finish line, "At least now I don't have to go all the way to Torino."
Saturday's super-G was halted after 30 minutes because heavy snowfall made for poor visibility. Restarted in the midafternoon, all of the morning runs were discarded and the race resumed under sunny skies.
Miller came down the super-G course with the pedigree to sweep the field. After the first section, he was on a pace to have the fastest time. Then, about one minute into his run, making a right-to-left turn, he inexplicably skied too close to a tricky gate in a flat section of the course. Miller is always aggressive — that is why he is fast — but this was reckless. His left ski crashed into the gate, and Miller spun around, skiing inelegantly as he balanced on one leg.
Knowing his chances at a medal were gone, Miller got both skis on the snow and left the course near a side gate, skiing through the woods, and never returned to the finish area to talk to teammates, team officials or reporters.
Miller, who stays in an R.V. near the finish area, will race in two more events next week: the giant slalom Monday and the slalom next Saturday. He will be a long shot in the slalom, an event in which he has not contended during the World Cup season. But Miller, if not for his bad streak in these Games, would be viewed as a certain gold-medal contender in the giant slalom. He won a World Cup giant slalom in December in Beaver Creek, Colo.
If Miller, 28, can win any medal, he will become the first American Alpine skier to win three Olympic medals in a career.
As baffling as Miller's results have been at the Turin Games, his life and his performances on the mountain have been a mystifying jumble from the moment he won last season's World Cup overall title in March. In the news conference immediately after the race that clinched the award, which had not been won by an American skier since Phil Mahre in 1983, Miller was expected to celebrate. Instead, a dour Miller announced that he might not ski in these Winter Games.
He didn't want to become too famous.
At lunch in Manhattan a month later, Miller insisted he was serious about his potential Olympic boycott.
"Everyone wants to be rich and famous, but most don't like it when they get it," Miller said. "And I'm one of those people. The rich part is O.K., but the famous I can do without."
Asked if he would not be calling more attention to himself by staying away from the Olympics, Miller paused to sign an autograph for a waiter, then answered: "I could fade away. No problem."
Three days later, he signed a two-year endorsement deal with Nike. Among other things, the company agreed to set up a Web site, joinbode.com, that contained Miller's pontifications on things like the excesses of youth sports and his distrust of authority.
Miller then spent the summer, by his own admission, playing golf and drinking beer. He worked out — he has a self-designed regimen that includes pushing an old one-ton paving vehicle up the hills near his home in Franconia, N.H. — but it is not clear how often. Miller kept reporters at arm's length for months, then showed up for the opening of the World Cup circuit overweight by about 10 pounds at 222.
For hardly the first time, his coaches on the United States ski team fretted that Miller was squandering a golden Olympic opportunity. But when he came in second in the World Cup season's first race in Austria, everyone in the ski community gave the usual response: It's just Bode being Bode.
In an interview earlier this year, Miller said, "The whole world would be better off if people thought for themselves and trusted themselves instead of doing what television commercials tell them to do or thinking in whatever way the media tells them to think."
This kind of thinking influenced his skiing style as well, and it frustrated coaches who tried to make him use a more traditional technique. As a teenager, Miller made the United States team despite the protests of several national coaches. But as a 20-year-old in 2001, he won a national championship in slalom, and a year later he won four World Cup races.
The United States ski team has been on a wild ride, tethered to the willful Miller, ever since.
The team's coaches and executives happily went along with the unmanageable Miller, rolling their eyes behind him as he spoke, in early 2005 when Miller was dominating the European skiing elite as no American racer before him. But the officials cringed when all the interviews from Miller's late-2005 book tour became public.
The best known of those interviews was broadcast on "60 Minutes" on CBS in January, when Miller seemed to indicate he skied the final race of last season while drunk. Miller apologized after the "60 Minutes" interview, but his agent and the United States ski team president had to fly to Switzerland to make him do so.
Heading into the Olympics, Rahlves defended Miller. But many of his other teammates seemed to be growing weary of the distractions Miller caused.
Miller has not traveled with the team for two seasons, preferring his R.V. He often skips team meetings and functions. What Miller calls individualism, his coaches and teammates sometimes privately call selfishness. While it grates on them, they have largely chosen to ignore the tension it creates for fear of making it worse by saying something.
For example, Miller slept late before the Olympic men's downhill, skipped the customary course inspection and arrived about one hour before the start. Phil McNichol, the United States men's head coach, was asked if Miller's prerace decision-making had bothered him.
"It's happened before," he said, shrugging. "Same old thing. We have said this many times: Bode does things his own way. I believe he is trying. But this is the Olympics, and is it enough?"
He grew up in the next town over from here.............Big Fucking Deal!!!
I bet Nike is glad they're running those Bode commercials.
What ever happened to "Just Do It?"
Bode is another one of those over-hyped olympians who while they may be the best America has to offer at a given moment, are not really all that good when compared to the rest of the world - like Michelle Qwan, Apolo Ohno, etc. Then there are the quiet giants like Eric Heiden (5 Gold Medals), and Bonnie Blair (5 Gold Medals), who seem to never really catch much hype.
Im glad he screwed the pooch. I hope his story sent a valuable lesson to all of the youngsters who watched him and all of his BS antics.
I don't follow sports or the Olympics, but does it seem as if US competitors are fuxxing up big time this time around??
Or is it more likely that the media is thrilled to see the US competitors fuxxing up and happy to report it in minute detail??
Michelle Quan is a 5-time world champion. Sometimes you just aren't at your peak when you need to be....particularly when you get older.
we have more gold medals than any other country right now....
Show him how to do it then.
As long as he can produce, I don't personally care if he's a PITA from a PR standpoint.
The problem is, HE'S NOT PRODUCING.