Oh what a difference four years makes.
In Torino, Bode Miller was chastised for his lackluster performances, his tendency for partying, and for unrealized potential.
In Vancouver today, two days after his first child's second birthday, the newly-mature alpine skier added another chapter to his Olympic career...a chapter laced with gold.
Miller won the gold medal in the men’s super combined competition at Whistler Creekside Sunday afternoon, fighting back from seventh place after the downhill portion to edge Croatia’s Ivica Kostelic by 0.33 seconds.
Now he has the whole Vancouver set. One gold, one silver, one bronze.
The medal is the first gold medal of his career and, up until today, he had been the only Olympic skier to have won four or more alpine skiing medals without a gold.
If Miller had any questions left to answer about his big-race abilities, he doesn't anymore. Miller shredded Sunday's slalom leg of the super combined to earn his first Olympic gold medal and record fifth overall.
"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. "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 Ivica Kostelic by .33 seconds for gold.
"Within 10 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."
His three medals in Vancouver make him the 12th alpine skier to win three in a single Olympic Winter Games. The record is four, set by Ivica Kostelic's sister, Janica, in 2002.
Miller also ties the record for most alpine skiing medals by a man at a single Winter Olympics, and becomes the sixth man to win three alpine medals at a single Olympic Winter Games.
Putting his achievements into perspective, only Chad Hedrick, Apolo Anton Ohno, and Eric Heiden have won three medals in a single Olympic Winter Games.
Miller's five career medals moves him to second on the all-time alpine skiing medal list among men—trailing only Norway’s Kjetil André Aamodt, who won eight.
Showing his versatility, Miller's five medals have come in four different disciplines. He received two silvers in Salt Lake—giant slalom and traditional two-run slalom combined—and has scooped up an Olympic Neapolitan in Vancouver with downhill bronze, super-G silver, and super combined gold. The men's giant slalom is set for Tuesday, and slalom will conclude the alpine schedule Saturday.
Miller was seventh, .76 seconds behind Norway's Aksel Lund Svindal after the downhill, gaining an early advantage on the winning split but losing time in the latter half.
"I thought Bode put down a good run in the downhill," said U.S. Head Coach Sasha Rearick. "He had to fight to get some time (back), which I thought was good. So he just goes out there and skis like he can, he doesn't have to think about it too much, just go as hard as you can."
The U.S. Team went 1-2-3 in the slalom, with Ted Ligety coming from 15th to fifth with the day's fastest second run, followed by a sensational performance from Will Brandenburg, who crashed into the netting in Saturday's training but bounced back to finish 10th in his Olympic debut with the second fastest slalom of the day.
Miller had to dig deep for his slalom, the day's third fastest.
"It was completely fast on 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 knew I had a great run going, but I don't know how I got those last 15 gates through the finish. It was just willpower. My legs were completely shot. On a run like that, you're functioning on inspiration and willpower. It's not muscle or anything deliberate, it's things you're drawing up from somewhere else."
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