Bode quits U.S. Ski Team
Vail CO Colorado
Former Olympic medalist and World Cup champion Bode Miller is leaving the U.S. ski team, ending his contentious relationship with the federation that oversees the sport in this country.
The fiercely independent Miller has been at odds with the association for years, and there long had been rumblings that he would leave the team. U.S. officials have been unhappy with Miller’s late-night partying and his outlandish public comments.
But he was by far the best skier on the team.
The 29-year-old Miller won two silver medals at the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics, but was shut out at the 2006 Turin Games despite being a favorite in nearly every Alpine discipline. He was criticized for spending too much time in local clubs.
The announcement of his departure came as the U.S. team opened its training camp in Park City, Utah, on Saturday.
Miller told U.S. men’s coach Phil McNichol of his decision to leave the team following a meeting at the headquarters of the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association in Park City.
“Bode is a great athlete and we hope he will continue to have athletic success,” U.S. Alpine director Jesse Hunt said in a statement released Saturday by the federation. “We had a serious discussion with Bode about his responsibilities as a team member, and he later advised us he was choosing not to join the team.”
Miller met Thursday with Hunt, McNichol and USSA president Bill Marolt.
The discussion never got into details of Miller’s behavior, according to Tom Kelly, the association’s vice president for marketing and communications.
“There have been a lot of specific issues out there ” the RV, alcohol issues and so forth,” Kelly said in a telephone interview. “None of those were talking points in this meeting. This was about the philosophy of the team, what it means to be a member of the team.”
Miller still could compete at the Olympics and other major international competitions, but has said it’s doubtful he’ll be racing at the time of the 2010 Vancouver Games ” and that, even if he is still competing, he would not take part in another Olympics.
Miller has been a part of the U.S. team for 11 years, but will have to travel and train on his own if he competes in the 2008 World Cup season as expected.
His super-giant slalom title last winter was his fourth World Cup championship. He won the overall World Cup title in 2005. Miller, who lives in Bretton Woods, N.H., has 25 World Cup victories, two shy of Phil Mahre’s U.S. record.
In an interview last month, Miller said he expected to break Mahre’s record next winter.
“In my mind, I’m better than any other racer,” he said. “I’ve been racing against those guys for five, 10 years. Given equal conditions, I feel I can beat those guys any day.”
He criticized the association for not coming to his defense at the Torino Olympics instead of offering a public apology for him.
“Everybody parties,” Miller said. “There’s too much emphasis on winning.”
Miller entered the Torino Olympics as a major focus of attention, as much for his attitude as his talent after saying on CBS’ “60 Minutes” program: “If you ever tried to ski wasted, it’s not easy.”
Although a flop on the slopes, he left the Games in an upbeat mood.
“It’s been an awesome two weeks,” he said at the time. “I got to party and socialize at an Olympic level.”
Miller will not be the first prominent skier to leave the U.S. and race independently.
Kristina Koznick, a six-time winner on the World Cup circuit, left the team in 2001 because of her romantic relationship with then-U.S. assistant coach Dan Stripp. Stripp also left to coach her. Koznick retired from racing last fall.