“I’m eating,” Bode Miller said after opening the door. He was holding up a sandwich. “Gimme five minutes.”
An hour earlier, Miller had skidded of the course in the slalom, the last of his five events, completing an 0-for-the-Olympics. And then he kept on skiing, ducking reporters again.
I had tracked him down after a mile-long trek in ankle-deep snow, and good as his word, Miller came out soon and was his rambling, revealing, remarkably stubborn self in a half-hour interview. A few highlights:
Give Miller this much: He’s consistent.
He was 0-for-4 at that point, and Saturday’s last-chance slalom still loomed. But Miller vowed he wouldn’t do anything different. And he didn’t.
“It’s important for me to live my life honestly,” he said. Besides, he added, “I was only out one night before a race.”
In fact, Miller said he spent Friday night before the slalom watching “Miracle,” the movie about a bunch of college kids who came together as the 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team and beat the Soviet Union’s heavily favored “Big Red Machine” en route to a gold medal.
Miller then talked softly, almost longingly about how U.S. ski teammates Ted Ligety and Julia Mancuso, both just 21 and largely unburdened by expectations, had risen to the occasion at these Olympics and won gold. He was in the same position four years ago in Salt Lake City, when he sneaked in and won two silvers.
To recreate that feeling, Miller said he went as far as purposely slacking off in his training.
“For the last eight to 10 months, I was less prepared than the last Olympics. That left me the opportunity to dig deep, to go down that other route, to make more sacrifices and get back to where I was,” he said.
But none of it worked. Miller came here as an overwhelming overdog, the defending overall World Cup championship, the first American to hold that title since 1983. Anybody who saw NBC’s promotional campaign ahead of the Winter Olympics must have thought all the other skiers in the world were auditioning for parts as extras in Miller’s highlight reel.
“I wanted an Olympic experience like in ‘Miracle.’ But how was it for the Russians?” Miller said, leaving little doubt which role was thrust on him. “Horrible.”
But hardly surprising, I countered, considering the high-paying endorsement deal he took from Nike and a few other sponsors. Miller then countered that he left plenty of money on the table, and accepted only those deals that let him put his message out unfiltered by the media.
“Where the quality of life fits in the priority scale is something everybody has to decide for themselves. Nobody else can tell you what your quality of life is, or should be.”
I told him that sounded like an excuse to party.
“If I wasn’t prepared at the start of the races, that would be something I would look at. But I guarantee you every athlete who stood up at the top of the hill could say, ‘Hey, what about that weightlifting workout you skipped last summer or whatever?”’
Then he brought up teammate Daron Rahlves. Like Miller, he was a favorite to medal — although in only two events as opposed to Miller’s five. And like Miller, he never made it onto the podium.
“Look at what happened to Rahlves. He was holed up in his RV, he’s probably the fittest guy out here and he made a point of talking about how important the Olympics were to him,” Miller said. “And then look — a little bad luck and he’s got nothing to show for the whole thing.
“Me, it’s been an awesome two weeks,” Miller said. “I got to party and socialize at an Olympic level.”
See pictures of Bode Miller's 2006 Olympic performances.