Samuel Bode Miller has won more major races than any other American male skier in history.
Known for his wild style, often portrayed as reckless, Miller has won five medals overall in the last four Winter Olympic Games, and he is two-time overall World Cup champion in 2005 and 2008 in addition to 33 other World Cup victories.
At age 36 and heading into what will likely be his fifth and final Olympics, some of his critics may see Miller as “washed up.” But Bode knows how to make a lasting impression on the slopes, skeptics be damned.
“I have so many more of the pieces in place now to make me feel solid and capable of putting together the exact performance I’m going to need on a given day in a race,” Miller said at the USOC Media Summit in late September.
Miller told the press he could still have the best season he has ever had and that his body and mind are in a better state than ever in terms of strength and harmony brought on by his coaches, his recovery and his new family.
The family man
Miller married 26-year-old professional volleyball player Morgan Beck last October after just months of dating. The two met at one of Beck’s tournaments in Fort Lauderdale, and Beck said she made her husband work hard for their first date.
Beck says she turned a determined Miller down every day of the tournament until at her last match when he walked up to her and said, “I don’t want to freak you out, but we’re soul mates.” Turns out he was right. Within a month and a half of meeting, Miller had already bought an engagement ring.
But the Millers’ life is no fairytale. Bode and Morgan Miller have faced their share of hardships and tests of faith. Bode has spent this past year tangled in two custody battles with former girlfriends for rights to a son born in February 2013 and a 5-year-old daughter, and Morgan Miller suffered a miscarriage last January while pregnant with the couple’s first child together.
Just months after facing this loss, Bode Miller suffered another heartbreak in April when his brother, Chelone, 29, was found dead.
A painful motivation
Professional snowboarder Chelone Miller was found unresponsive in a van in Mammoth Lakes, Calif., following an apparent seizure possibly related to a traumatic brain injury from a 2005 motorcycle accident. Chelone, nicknamed “Chilly,” was a top contender for the upcoming Olympic Games, focused on making it to Sochi with his older brother in 2014.
“He loved life so much; it made him easy to be around,” Bode told the Ski Channel just days after learning about his brother’s passing.
Since Chilly was hoping to make his first Olympic team in Sochi, Bode hopes to bring a piece of his brother with him to the Games in February. He says he has had some unusual energy in competition since Chilly’s passing, and he calls it a little bit of his brother’s “life force.”
Leaving a legacy
Bode Miller will be 40 years old by the 2018 Olympic Games in South Korea, so there has been conversation surrounding the possibility of this being his last shot at another Olympic medal at age 36. With that discussion has come the talk of his legacy in ski racing, but Miller doesn’t seem too concerned or consumed by it. He says you don’t get to pick your legacy because it is a compilation of the good and the bad.
“I’ve made plenty of mistakes, I’ve done tons of stupid shit; I’ve had plenty of awful races, and I’ve had a bunch of really amazing races,” Miller said. “And I really wouldn’t change anything about [my career].”
Medals have never been a motivation of Miller’s. His mind works more similarly to that of the most-decorated U.S. athlete in the history of the Winter Games, speedskater Apolo Ohno, who said there is no greater satisfaction than knowing he put everything into a race and a given goal.
Miller says the medals hanging from his neck are not what he judges himself with at the end of the day, but the processes, experiences and overall performance are what satisfy him. His love for the sport and its integrity are most important to him.
“It’s not so much about my legacy as it is about ski racing in general,” Miller said. “Ski racing deserves what you can give to it.”
A new man, a new start
The image of a smiling, happy Bode Miller the last day of September at the USOC Media Summit in Park City seems a far cry from the Bode seen prior to the past two Olympic Games—such as before the 2006 Torino Games when he admitted in an interview to skiing “wasted.” But this seems to be the new and improved Bode Miller —one who is on a mission to make a comeback, be remembered, and disprove those who are skeptical of his age and ability.
Miller ended the Summit press conference saying he is just happy to be where he is today and that his overall plan in moving forward toward the Games is to “just kick ass.”
BSU at the Games is a freelance news agency operated by 22 student journalists reporting from the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympic Games through an immersive-learning program at Ball State University.For more, click here.