First Olympic gold medal for Bode Miller

February 22nd, 2010

Miller achieved one of his most impressive performances in a major event yesterday at Whistler Creek capturing the Olympic Super-combined event to earn his first Olympic gold medal and record fifth in total since 2002.

Miller's five Olympic medals have come in four different disciplines. He received two silvers in Salt Lake – in giant slalom and in the former two-run slalom combined – and has rounded up in Vancouver with downhill bronze, Super-G silver, and Super combined gold.

After clocking the seventh best time in the downhill portion of the event, seven tenths of a second behind leader Aksel Lund Svindal, the 32-year-old racer from Franconia fought hard in the slalom leg to defend his gold medal chances. Despite his fatigue, Miller managed to set the third best performance in that run to establish a new overall best time which remained out of reach for the other favorites.

It was perfect for Bode

"When I passed the line, I did my normal thing and stood for a second and I was like 'That was unbelievable, I can't ask for anything more,' " Miller said after the race. "For my first Olympic gold, it was absolutely perfect."

Exhausted from a training crash in slalom, an ailing ankle and medals festivities, Miller said he got a rush of inspiration before his second run, in which he zipped past Croatia's Ivica Kostelic by 33/100 of a second for gold.

"Within ten seconds before the race, I started to get that bouncy feeling where everything hones in," he said. "I started to get the shivers a little bit and that energy. That's what I've had in all the races leading up until now and I knew it was what I needed in the slalom."

One leg in my boat

Miller had to dig deep for his slalom. "It was tired at the bottom," Miller said. "On that last pitch, my legs started to feel wobbly, and it didn't even feel like I was looking at the gates anymore. I was exhausted. "

"I already had to work hard on myself this morning to get me psyched up for the race with one leg injured and the other one already in my boat,” also explained Bode who has been spending much time last year with his two-year-old daughter Dacey in San Diego, California, where he plans to buy his own boat.

"I knew I had a great run going, but I don't know how I got those last 15 gates through the finish," Miller also added. "It was just willpower. My legs were completely shot. On a run like that, you're functioning on inspiration and willpower. It's not muscles or anything deliberate, it's things you're drawing up from somewhere else."

Miller’s third medal in Whistler, the fifth in gold including the one collected at the FIS Worlds at St. Moritz and Bormio in 2003 and 2005, was his first Olympic gold but he insisted his smiles and his celebrations reflected a satisfaction with his run and not just the medal.

Gold is great

"The gold medal is great, it’s perfect, that’s what everyone is shooting for but the way I skied in these last races is what matters. I would have been proud of that skiing whether I got the medals or not. The three medals are kind of a distraction, because it makes everyone think I am proud of the races because I got the medals. "

The sometimes enigmatic all-rounder from New Hampshire has been labelled self-centered by some of his critics but it is to his credit that he spent time, after the flower ceremony held in the finish are, praising the performances of lesser known skiers here.

"Some of these guys are skiing at levels they have never been at before," he told the press. "It might not look that impressive because they might not be great skiers or they don’t have great equipment but that is what the Olympics is supposed to be about."

Miller, who supposedly hated the Turin Games, now believes there really is something special about the Olympics which raises performances, including his own.

"By using the Olympics for what it is supposed to be – as an inspirational tool the level I skied today is right at the very, very top. You can’t get that just on call, it’s not like you turn a key and magically ski your absolute best. "

"But when you are at the Olympics, with the energy and everything else, you can use that to bring your game up. To be able to do that well a few races in a row….there is a huge element of luck involved but it feels absolutely amazing,” he explained.

Ready for more?

Miller won nothing in Turin four years ago and cut an unhappy figure as he hopped over fences to escape from the questions of a demanding U.S media. It was unthinkable then that the now 32-year-old would be hinting at this Winter Games, his fourth, may not be the end of his career.

"I feel pretty old, I don’t know what my plan is really, having already quit once, it seems I came back for a reason and this was why. But it doesn’t mean that I am done. The reason (I quit) was that I wanted to make sure I had the right motivation. I am going to have to sit down after this season and figure out which direction to go in."

"I feel good and when I race like I have been here it really is amazing, just awesome. It is fun to do, it really is challenging at a level that you just can’t find anywhere else. I’d feel pretty stupid to give that up if I could continue. "

At the end of his third press conference, Miller also mentioned that a part of the child who spent entire winters insatiably cruising down the slopes at Franconia can still be found in him nowadays. "I have been skiing here with the same joy and the same spirit as in those days," he said.

On Tuesday, Bode will again give his best for another great day on the mountain during the two giant slalom runs. He has not excelled recently in that specialty which used to be his best in his early years on the tour.

Back in 2001, he won his first World Cup race at Val d’Isère in giant slalom and in 2004 he captured his first World Cup title in that specialty. So more surprises can be expected.