Medals aside, Miller has own idea of merit
VAIL – Bode Miller isn’t out to win Olympic gold medals. He’s not out to get another World Cup overall title. All he wants to do is ski in a way that he is “proud of,” and any awards he receives for doing so are just “external measurements” of his success. “I’ve already qualified for the Olympics,” said Miller at a media event in Vail Wednesday night. “If I were to go there and not train another day from now until then, my expectations would possibly be a little different than if I raced World Cup right up to that. The fact is, I’d still race as hard as I could. I want to race as hard as I can when I get there.”The Torino 2006 Olympic Games kick off Feb. 10 in Italy. Qualified or not, Miller has some racing to do before that. Namely, today’s World Cup super-G at Beaver Creek and the following downhill, giant slalom and slalom through Sunday, and the other World Cup stops leading up to the Games.”My focus is on my every day life,” Miller said. “When I’m preparing for something six months down the road, you know, I could die tomorrow. You’ve got to be aware of that. As a ski racer, that’s certainly an option. We go 75, 80 miles an hour a lot of the time. You have to be focused on living each day the way you want to in and of itself.”
Too much limelightOne gets the idea of late that Miller is not living each day the way he wants. One gets the idea that spending each day doing such things as news conferences and sponsor events don’t fall into the realm of ways he wants to live. But he has signed the contracts. The sponsor money is in hand or on its way. Miller truly hit the spotlight when he landed two silver medals in the 2002 Olympic combined and GS events. His racing career, at least as far as “external measurements” are concerned, reached a high point last year when he won the World Cup overall title. But this year, the spotlight and expectations have become a bit much for Miller. “It’s been a challenge,” he said. “The better you get at a sport and the better your status, you’re constantly being barraged with (media) and you see all these different images of yourself. You’re trying to decide if you are that person or not. I was really thinking about not coming back this season. But the contracts are on the table and everybody wanted me to.”That said, Miller wonders if he’s competing for the right reasons. He said that last season, he met his personal criteria for ski-racing accomplishments, which happened to be backed up by nine World Cup wins, the 2005 overall title and the downhill and SG World Championship titles.
Throughout his career, Miller has proven that his personal criteria doesn’t always agree with the “external measurements” of success, like awards and medals. Last year’s super-G at Beaver Creek is a perfect example. Miller took silver in the event (Austrian Stephan Goergl was the surprise winner), a respectable if not magnificent result by anyone’s standards, but Miller was fixated on a mistake he made during the second split, a mistake that was virtually invisible to just about everyone but him.”I wouldn’t say getting gold medals will help or hurt,” he said of this season. “Becoming a better person myself is a goal.”On dopingMiller has found himself in a different sort of spotlight, in the form of drug-testing for doping, the authorities of which Miller continues to speak out against.”People who make rules want people to do exactly what they say all the time,” he said. “They’re making rules to live by, but none of those guys have to be drug-tested. They don’t have to pull their pants down to their knees. They’re not making sports better. In my mind, they’re making sports worse. I don’t know why the general public or athletes don’t come together and say, ‘Look. You disqualify guys who don’t want to cheat. They’re not doing anything wrong. You’re ruining their career and their life.’ The guys making the rules don’t care about that stuff.”
The sport of ski racing in all of its purity is something Miller would like to focus on, and something at which his fans would like to see him continue to excel. Several children were in attendance at the event at Vail’s Ski Museum Wednesday night as well as 1964 Olympic medalist Billy Kidd, who said his skis are “too slow” to ski with Miller, but how he would love to see his fellow New Englander win the super-G today. As for Miller, he just wants to feel good about his turns.”If I’m being effective and helping people, helping my team and becoming a better person myself, I would say that would be good motivation for me to continue,” he said, adding that he is very excited to compete in the four Birds of Prey events. “Hopefully, I’ll have some races where I’m proud of the way I ski.”Staff Writer Shauna Farnell can be reached at 949-0555, ext.14632, or email@example.com.Vail, Colorado