Through all the weeks of drama surrounding the Sochi Olympics, whether it was about unfinished hotel facilities or injuries at the new snowboarding slopestyle course, fans and athletes alike have been excited for one thing — the first taste of competition.
Although the Winter Games won’t officially open until Friday, several skiers had their first crack at the slopes of Sochi’s Rosa Khutor downhill. Among them was American Bode Miller, the veteran who will be competing in his fifth Olympics this year.
Miller has been here before, but the memories weren’t good ones. In 2012, he tweaked his knee in a test run on these icy slopes, which led to him undergoing microfracture surgery and missing all of the 2012-13 season in order to prepare for this return. At 36, he knows that his career is winding down, and he’s not going to leave anything in the tank in pursuit of one last run at the top of the podium.
Fans of Team USA will be happy to see, then, that Miller clocked the best times in training runs on Thursday. He’s still a bit sore from a crash in a giant slalom race in Switzerland last week, but it didn’t slow him down too much, as he beat some favorites, like Norwegian Aksel Lund Svindal, fairly handily.
For Miller to shock the world and make one more run at gold, it will take a unique combination of calming experience and pure, unbridled adrenalin.
“(Sometimes) it isn’t about technical ability,” Miller told USA TODAY after training. “It’s about emotion and enthusiasm and desire. And for me I’m hoping that my focus and my intensity can carry me through. I can’t say I’m not excited. I’m really excited. Hopefully opening ceremonies will stir some of my emotions also. But definitely I’ve kind of been here and done this. Not to take anything away from the Olympics, but it just isn’t the same after you’ve done this as many times as I have.”
With five medals already to his credit, he clearly has all the skills it takes to win. He knows the track better than anybody. Now, it’s just up to him to channel everything he’s got into one last run at glory.