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Life without Bode isnt all that different

Ian CroppVail, CO Colorado
SPT U.S. Ski Training 3 DT 11-8-07
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It was the question none of the reporters wanted to ask, but it had to be put out there.At the U.S. Ski Teams media day last week, those of us gathered at the base of Keystones Starfire on North Peak conducted some interviews then prefaced one question with, Now this is the last thing in the world we want to talk about but …Even before we finished the sentence, they knew the The Bode question was coming: What will life be like without Bode Miller on the team?Most answers were diplomatic, and while we werent given any secret gossip on what might have happened, we know a bit about what life was like when he was there. I dont know if he was every around anyway, one of the skiers said.While Im not a fan of Bode by any means, Ill cut him a little slack. Hes an amazing athlete, and knows how to win (this year, hell likely become the winningest American World Cup skier). All his wins thrust him into the spotlight, which brought endless obligations, be it with sponsors or media. Still, he was part of a team, and as time wore on, he acted less and less like a teammate and more like a one-man show (think T.O. but less friendly and less ostentatious).After Daron Rahlves left, the immediate reaction was to look to Bode for leadership, but the teams best skier reminded us that great athletes arent always great leaders or role models.Where the team will miss Bode the most is in training. He is such a fierce competitor, and it can only help having someone on the slopes who pushes the envelope like he does.But lets look at what will happened in Bodes absence. First off, Phil McNichol, the mens head alpine coach, wont have to spend thirty minutes out of his day giving the media a Bode briefing. (Everybody will still be talking about Bode, but the U.S. Team can clean its hands of him, but still collect his World Cup points.) There will be a lot less hullabaloo about the team rules instituted last year, which were basically aimed toward Bode. And now, we can (and should) embrace some of the other skiers, who are long overdue for some coverage. This is a fun team with great chemistry and plenty of potential.

Skiers remind me of rugby players. I dont think Ive ever seen a group of so many athletes who are perennially injured. Half of the team seems to either be recovering from a serious injury, out for the season or skiing through a lot of pain. Its good to see some of the walking wounded back in form, though, like Lindsey Vonn, Erik Schlopy, Steven Nyman and Bryon Friedman.For Friedman, its been long, trying road to recover after a terrible crash in 2005. But as he enters the season, Friedman knows all the hard work coming back is going to be worth it.I cant really put it into words, its that rush, that feeling you get when you are going 60-70 miles per hour and you come down to the finish and you laid it all on the line and you think, Yeah, I faced a lot of fear and conquered it, Friedman said.Plus, youre traveling around the with some of you best friends, and getting to see the world, just sitting back and relaxing and thinking this a great lifestyle. Were so lucky to have this in front of us. A lot of guys take it for granted, and I certainly did before I got injured. Thats why I take pictures, take video, try and play music everywhere I go. I interview the guys now myself and talk about their experiences. I have a catalogue of interviews and footage and it will be really cool to do something with it someday.Friedman, who is know for his musical talents and gave an ad-hoc concert last week for some team members and will likely keep the team entertained during the winter. He got a chance to take a few pictures at the end of training when teammate Chris Beckmann came down the hill, following a big crash, without half of his ski suit.

Just to reinforce the point, its Lindsey Vonn, not Lindsey Kildow. Apparently not everyone gets it. After Vonns finish at the season-opening race in Solden, Austria, an Italian newspaper printed races results and listed Vonn as Thomas Vonn, her husband. Lindsey Vonn got a good kick out of it. Another moment lost in translation: Talk to Chuck. One of the U.S. Ski Teams sponsors, Charles Schwab, has caused a bit of confusion. Theres a patch on the U.S. Ski Team jackets that say Talk to Chuck, which is fairly well known slogan in the United State. So when you see the U.S. Team at the Birds of Prey, with you best European accent, ask Who is Chuck? Panic Haus? Two races into the World Cup and the Austrian men are without a podium. Time to panic. The Austrian Ski Team reminds me a lot of the New York Yankees. Their bombastic followers have been spoiled by dominance, and therefore expect perfection all the time. When it doesnt happen, there is a cry for heads to roll. Chill out. There may not be as much national attention afforded to the U.S. Ski team this year, as its not an Olympic or World Championships year, but you can rest assured that well keep you posted. Props to the U.S. Freestyle Team for hiring its first ski cross coach, Tyler Shepherd (who spent time here with Ski & Snowboard Club Vail). The growing sport of ski cross (which has about five different spelling variations) will see its first Olympics in 2010, and theres no reason the U.S. cant be competitive. For the love of winter, please let it snow. Id make a deal with the Devil and wear snow blades for a day if he just cooled things down a bit.Sports Writer Ian Cropp can be reached at 748-2935 or icropp@vaildaily.com.


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