Bode Miller wins bronze in men's downhill at Winter Olympics

Enjoy an up close and personal look at the action in Canada.
By Barry Svrluga
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, February 16, 2010

WHISTLER, B.C. -- Each interaction Bode Miller had Monday morning indicated something significant might be afoot. When he silently rode a chairlift to the top of the Olympic downhill course here, he appeared focused, not always his strength. When he arrived at the start and mingled with his fellow racers, he grew nervous, excited, anxious -- a cauldron of emotions that meant he understood, and even embraced, the magnitude of the event.

Four years ago in Turin, Miller could not capture such feelings, and the result was an Olympics in which he had the potential to win everything and he won precisely nothing. Monday was different, right from the start.

"It's the Olympics," he said. "It's the real deal. It's what makes people cry and makes people excited and inspired. That stuff, that's real."

The reality for Miller -- the subject of so much hype and controversy before, during and after the 2006 Games -- is that he is now the most decorated American Alpine skier in the history of the Olympics. Monday, he took a bronze in the men's downhill -- losing to Switzerland's Didier Defago by all of nine-hundredths of a second, trailing silver medalist Aksel Lund Svindal by just two-hundredths. That gives him three Olympic medals, joining the two silvers he won in 2002.

And he did so, he said, because he allowed himself to feel the event.

"I think there's a difference when you take it really clinically and like a job and just execute because you're the best in the world, you have the best skis in the world, you have all the experience," Miller said. "Compare that to when you go up there and you feel the Olympics. You get chills. You're nervous. You get a little scared. You get positive. You go through the emotional roller coaster of what it is to compete at the Olympic level, and you let that run through your whole body. You let yourself get built up and then you go out and give everything you've got."

On a day when cool temperatures finally engulfed Whistler, and a once-slushy racing surface hardened to the competitors' liking, everything Miller had was good enough to beat all but two racers. Everything about the day -- his performance and his mind-set -- indicates there might be more medals to come. Miller had not been on a World Cup podium in the downhill since January 2009. Still to come are the super combined Tuesday -- one of Miller's strengths, because he can race well in both downhill and slalom -- and the super-G Friday and the giant slalom Sunday. Could he add to his totals?

"I'm fit," he said. "I'm still getting stronger. I feel motivated."

That showed Monday in his demeanor. He rode the chairlift with teammate Marco Sullivan. "I don't think we said a word to each other," Sullivan said. When Miller got to the top, he ran into veteran World Cup racer Marco Buechel of Liechtenstein. The conversation blew Buechel away.

"He said he was nervous," Buechel said. "I'm like: 'What? Nervous? You? I never saw you like that.' He said: 'Well, I'm excited. I'm nervous.' "

Miller skied eighth of the 64 competitors, and his time of 1 minute 54.50 seconds over the 1.93-mile course was the best when he arrived at the finish. It was a solid run, one in which his most significant errors came near the bottom of the course, where he could have remained more aerodynamic.

"I think he lost the race at the bottom," teammate Steven Nyman said.

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