US skier Bode Miller may have finally put the lingering disappointment of four years ago behind him on Monday when he took the bronze medal in men’s downhill skiing at Whistler Creekside.
Miller got down the hill in a time of 1:54.40, a mere 0.09 behind gold medalist Didier Defago of Switzerland, and he was just two one hundredths away from the silver medal, which went to Aksel Lund Svindal of Norway.
The time margin between gold and bronze is the smallest in the event’s history. But the more pressing question is whether Miller's medal really is redemption for a lackluster showing at the 2006 Winter Olympics in Torino.
Despite 32 World Cup victories and two silver medals in the giant slalom and combined in Salt Lake City in 2002, Miller is perhaps better known for his epic failure to medal in Torino.
His eighth place finish in qualifying in Vancouver didn't exactly instill much faith in the brash American, but he overcame the "underdog" tag to scoop bronze today in Whistler, British Columbia.
After carrying the weight of the nation into the last Winter Olympics, expectations were much more muted entering the 2010 Games. Nobody really expected him to challenge for a gold medal, and those who did have kept a relatively low profile, not wanting to add to the burden of what a fully-committed Miller could accomplish.
Miller’s medal is the first for the US in the downhill since Tommy Moe’s gold medal in 1994 Winter Games at Lillehammer and only the third overall. He skied well enough to win the gold medal, and only two perfect runs from Defago and Svindel kept Miller from causing a mammoth upset.
If critics think that he choked in Torino then they must admit that he flourished in Vancouver. A bronze medal in Olympic competition is never a consolation prize, and Miller should be proud of his accomplishment. With four other alpine disciplines still remaining in the Games, he has already extracted a measure of redemption for 2006.
"Redemption" is an overused term in sport, but I am sure Miller will be the first to admit he is happy to change the narrative of his career. Fans who know him as the American who failed to come through may now think of him in a different light.
He has already proved to his critics that he is still a world class racer. If he had any doubts deep within himself that he deserved to be there, today's medal tells him everything he needed to know.