For 16 years now, Bode Miller has been the face of American men’s skiing. While many Americans only focus on the sport every four years in something of an athletically-fueled nationalistic pride, with the Winter Olympics in Sochi just around the corner, we should all take a moment and realize that we could be witnessing history made in just a few short weeks.
The Games in Sochi will be Miller’s fifth games, a feat not often seen, especially in the modern era. Even Michael Phelps, America’s most popular Olympian and the most decorated of all time, decided to hang it up (at least in theory) after four Games. And as the years have worn on, Miller has had to adapt not only his training, but also his mental state in order to stay at the top of his sport.
Case in point: think back to the 2006 games in Turin. After making a splash with two silver medals at the Salt Lake City games four years earlier, Miller ended up becoming something of an Olympic pariah, as he missed the medal podium in all of his events and unapologetically said that he had a great two weeks, and “got to party and socialize at an Olympic level”. Whatever it was that changed in him after those Games, he found a new dedication, came back to earn three medals – including his first gold – at the 2010 Vancouver Games.
Already the most decorated skier in American history, Miller knows there are more years behind him in his career than there are ahead. After spending 2013 recovering from knee surgery and dealing with several issues in his personal life, he appears to have everything on the right track heading to Sochi, and he’s been cleared to run in all five Alpine events. Still, through all the difficulty, Miller believes he can still perform at the highest levels.
“Anytime [in] the Olympics, anyone kind of knows anything outside of the medals is not really why you’re going there,” Miller recently told Today’s Matt Lauer. “I think it is the performances I’m looking for, maybe a little different expectations this year — four years older, fifth Olympics. My knee is still, it is a liability, probably a lot of the things I’m dealing with right now are liabilities, so I do go in there with the intent to ski my best and try to inspire some people.”
That last part is exactly what he’ll be doing every time he takes to the slopes at these Games. Miller can make Olympic history this year by becoming the first man with six Olympic skiing medals. While he hasn’t always been the textbook hero, he’s shown that he’s human just like the rest of us. At 36 years old, he’s shown the growth and the daring to dream that we could only hope to find in ourselves, and isn’t that what the “Olympic Spirit” is really all about?