So, what does one do after winning an Olympic medal?
Eat sushi and drink sake if you’re Bode Miller.
Of course, that’s after the requisite press conferences, medal ceremony, and VIP meet and greets.
But first, the race. When Miller stepped up to the starting gate, no matter the nationality—German, Swiss, Canadian— the whole crowd began to chant, “Bode! Bode! Bode!” Even an Austrian confided, “Don’t tell anyone, but I want Bode to win.” Now for an Austrian, that’s treason. The crowd watched in awe, transfixed to the tele-screen as Miller nailed a run that was smooth and elegant and clean. No dramatic saves, one-legged skiing, or near disasters. None of the razzle dazzle that is his trademark. He was relaxed. This was a run of a master, someone who has elevated to the upper echelon of his sport. And when he crossed the finish line, he knew it too. As he looked up at his time on the scoreboard, a wide smile stretched across his boyish face.
For eight racers, he held the top spot with a time of 1:54.40. Then the big guns came out: Norwegian Askel Lund Svindval, the Swiss Didier Defago and Didier Cuche. Svindval edged Miller out by .02 and then Defago squeezed them both out by a margin of .07 and .09 respectively. That’s about as quick as a clap.
With Cuche, Werner Heel and the Swiss upstart Carlo Janko out of the way, Bode was still in third, and could relax. Together with Svindval and Defago, he watched as racers continued down the course; as Cuche, the favorite, nearly stole the race until a few technical mishaps in the bottom section pushed him back to 6th; as teammate Marco Sullivan was tossed off a jump and into the safety netting; as two course sliders yard-saled it on the home stretch right when Aussie Craig Branch came charging towards the finish line. In the end, after 64 racers total, Miller had held on to the bronze.
At the post-flower ceremony press conference, while Miller was characteristically blasé, he tempered his too-cool-for-school attitude by calling out his ski tech, the importance of inspiring other athletes, and children. The usually calm and unfettered pre-race Miller admitted to a case of pre-game nerves. When asked if he was chewing gum in the starting gate, he responded, “No, I was before, to stop me from throwing up. I was feeling nervous and sick all morning. But, yeah, I do love gum and was chewing it all day.”
To a question about his Olympic legacy, Miller probably made his flaks cringe when he responded, “You don’t want to go the Tonya Harding route of winning medals, or you could go through a whole long start list of racers and go to their house in the off-season and break a leg here and you’d probably have a bunch of medals by the end of your career. But the legacy for me is the way you perform and the attitude you bring into the arena that is the Olympics.”
Exemplary attitude isn’t exactly what we would classify as one of Miller’s strengths, but maybe times are a-changing. And from the looks of things, they already are.
After an obligatory appearance at a US Ski Team Board event, an impatient Miller and his entourage—a childhood pal, his agent Lowell Taub, men’s head coach Sasha Rearick, and a few others—headed to dinner at Sushi Village. As it happens, so did we.
When this reporter ran into Miller on his way to the bathroom, he complained, “Your questions at the press conference were too boring.”
Ok, Bode. We’ll take that as a challenge.