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Emotional Bode Miller medals in race that mattered most

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KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia — It has been manifest since he strapped his boots into into skis here at the Rosa Khutor complex that Bode Miller was racing with a higher sense of purpose at these Olympic Games.

He has wanted it bad, perhaps too badly, sought in the expression of sport and art that has always been his calling, in the rush of a minute or maybe two in the joinder of man and mountain, to find that moment of clarity and, indeed, of transcendence.

At the bottom of the hill Sunday, when the big scoreboard said he was on his way to winning an Olympic medal for the sixth time in his storied career, Miller cried. His wife, Morgan, cried. They hugged each other. Holding an American flag, she helped him regain his composure amid television interviews. Later, on the podium, the flag draped over his right shoulder, before congratulating the others — because Miller has always believed in sportsmanship — he appeared to be alone with his thoughts.

VIDEO: Bode Miller’s emotional strength (Tom Brokaw interview)

And then it all became clear.

Miller’s younger brother, Chelone, died at age 29 last April, found dead of an apparent seizure in Mammoth Lakes, Calif., in the van Bode had bought for him. A snowboarder known to family and friends as “Chilly,” he had been in a dirt bike crash in 2005; thereafter he suffered from chronic seizures.

“Losing my brother this year,” Miller would say, “was really hard for myself, my family, our sort of whole community.

“I have been a focal point for them over the years — my racing. It was just — yeah, a lot of emotion. To have things go well today, as well as they did, I felt very fortunate to come out with a medal. Just, um, everything felt pretty raw and pretty connected. It was a lot for me.”

VIDEO: Bode Miller claims 6th Olympic medal

In a profile published before the Games in ESPN The Magazine, Miller disclosed that he and Morgan had gone to California to pick up the van and Chilly’s ashes. They even spent a night in the van.

“It’s super-emotional,” Miller was quoted as saying in that story, “and there is a lot of love and passion and power there. If you can channel that into ski racing, it’s possibly something that could make a difference.”

After the flower ceremony Sunday had concluded, he would Tweet:

Morgan would tweet:

“I’m skiing the best I’m skiing in my entire life,” Miller said at one point Sunday, explaining that conditions so far through these Games — changing light, soft snow — “don’t suit me very well.”

That’s why, after being favored in the downhill, he finished eighth. The defending Olympic champion in the super-combined, he finished sixth.

“I’m trying,” he said, “to do everything I can.”

It’s why he looked so focused Sunday morning in the super-G start gate. It was, he would say afterward, “probably if not the most important [race] of my life, right there with it.”

Miller’s run Sunday saw him rocket through the top section of the course. But a mistake off a late jump had him worried that he had given up too much time to stay in the medal hunt.

He ran 13th, then waited and watched. Only Norway’s Kjetil Jansrud, who won the race, in 1:18.14, and American Andrew Weibrecht, improbably, who started 29th, and surged to second; 23-hundredths of a second ahead, ran faster. Canada’s Jan Hudec would tie Miller for bronze, 53-hundredths back of Jansrud.

VIDEO: Matt Lauer talks with Bode Miller, Andrew Weibrecht

Miller’s super-G medal is the sixth in his Olympic career. That ties him with Bonnie Blair for the second-most ever by a U.S. Winter Olympic athlete. Apolo Ohno has eight.

“I have never,” he said, “been so stuck on counting them. For me, I have put in a lot of work. This is a really hard year. A lot of effort coming back, to get fit and get ready, and just battle through everything life throws at you sometimes.

“To come out and ski hard — it’s almost therapeutic for me to be in these situations where I really get to test myself. So I was happy to have it be on the right side of the hundredths. Some days, like I said, medals don’t matter. Today was one of the days where it does matter.”

Tori Bowie runs fastest 100m ever this early in a year; Diamond League recap

Tori Bowie
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Tori Bowie, primarily a long jumper until two years ago, began to make her case as Olympic 100m favorite in the Diamond League season opener in Doha on Friday.

Bowie won in 10.80 seconds, the fastest-ever time this early in a year. The clocking matched the soft-spoken Mississippi native’s personal best.

Bowie was the world’s fastest woman in 2014, her first season as a full-time sprinter, and earned the World Championships 100m bronze medal last August.

At Worlds, she finished behind Jamaican Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce and the Netherlands’ Dafne Schippers.

In Doha, Bowie beat Schippers (10.83) and Worlds fourth-place finisher Veronica Campbell-Brown (10.91) with a .7 meter/second tailwind, easily within the legal limit of 2.0.

“I’m a much better runner now than I was last season,” Bowie said, according to the IAAF.

Fraser-Pryce, the two-time reigning Olympic and World champion, bettered 10.80 three times last year, including a 10.76 to win the World title.

Fraser-Pryce was not in Doha and hasn’t raced a 100m yet this year but is entered in a Jamaican meet Saturday.

In other events Friday, Caster Semenya notched her first Diamond League win since 2011, taking the 800m in 1:58.26, the fastest time in the world this year.

Semenya, who won the 2009 World title and 2012 Olympic silver, is best known for a gender-testing controversy of 2009 and 2010. The South African struggled since the London Games, failing to make the 2015 Worlds final, but on Friday breezed into the lead with about 60 meters left and opened a comfortable winning margin of .88.

“I can’t say there have been many changes in my training or my attitude,” Semenya said, according to the IAAF.

Semenya’s resurgence has come since a July decision by the Court of Arbitration for Sport that suspended for two years an IAAF ruling in 2011 that regulated women’s testosterone levels for competition eligibility.

Semenya has performed well at various times before the 2011 ruling, during the regulation period and now without the regulation.

In the 110m hurdles, Olympic champion and world-record holder Aries Merritt took sixth place in 13.37 seconds in his first Diamond League race since a Sept. 1 kidney transplant. Jamaican Omar McLeod prevailed in 13.05, the fastest time in the world this year.

Beijing Olympic champion LaShawn Merritt won a 400m in 44.41. Merritt took silver at 2015 Worlds behind South African Wayde van Niekerk, who clocked 44.11 in Bloemfontein earlier Friday.

Ameer Webb looked like a man who will make his first Olympic team in the 200m, winning in a personal-best 19.85 seconds. Webb, 26, had not broken 20 seconds until this year. He’s now done it in consecutive meets.

The Doha 200m did not include World medalists Usain BoltJustin Gatlin or Anaso Jobodwana. Webb’s time on Friday would have taken bronze at Worlds and ranks him No. 3 among Americans since the London Olympics. Only Gatlin and LaShawn Merritt have been faster in that span.

The Diamond League continues in Shanghai on May 14.

MORE: U.S. sprinters past, present trade relay barbs

Doctor auctions Michael Jordan’s Olympic shoes, Dream Team ball

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Heritage Auctions
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As the team physician for the Dream Team, Dr. David Fischer was up close with the most star-studded team ever assembled as they rolled through the Barcelona Olympics in 1992.

Nearly 25 years later, Fischer has decided to let other fans and collectors share that experience.

Fischer has put almost all of the memorabilia he acquired during that historic summer up for auction, providing a rare chance for people to get their hands on some unique pieces from the U.S. Olympic men’s basketball team that helped the NBA reach into households the world over.

“This was such a unique team,” Fischer told The Associated Press. “It was the greatest sports team ever put together. There are other basketball fans and collectors out there. It’s just a good time to let other people enjoy them.”

The team was assembled to reclaim the U.S.’ place atop the basketball hierarchy after the Americans finished third in the Seoul Games in 1988. For the first time, NBA players were allowed to compete for the United States, and the result was a collection of talent unlike any other.

Michael Jordan just reaching the height of his powers. Charles Barkley, Patrick Ewing, Karl Malone and David Robinson in the primes of their careers. Magic Johnson and Larry Bird nearing the end of theirs. The group inspired a young generation of players, captivated a global audience and had opponents asking to take pictures at center court before the game started.

“Every shoe that I handle, every basketball brings back a very vivid memory of the exact time and circumstances around that,” Fischer said.

Fischer has made available for bid a pair of game-worn, autographed shoes from nearly the entire roster, the Dream Team Olympic championship ring he was awarded after they won the gold medal, a host of other memorabilia signed by the entire team, including basketballs and photographs and the gold medal from the Tournament of Americas qualifying event that took place prior to the Olympics.

Despite the crush of marketing surrounding the team at the time, Jordan, Bird, Magic and the rest of them were only together for a short summer run, which makes the most collectible items involving the team harder to come by.

“With players of this caliber, their stuff is not coming to market anytime soon,” said Chris Ivy, the director of sports memorabilia auctions for Heritage Auctions, the auction house that is handling the process.

What makes Fischer’s collection potentially more valuable, Ivy said, was what collectors call provenance. In an age of skyrocketing values for sports memorabilia, collectors and auction houses can sometimes have difficulty validating the authenticity of an item. But because Fischer was a member of the team and is the original owner of the items, the authenticity is unquestioned.

“There were a lot of people that were seeking material from the team at the time and I’m sure some of it made it out there,” Ivy said. “But having it come from someone like this is great. I don’t expect Barkley or Magic or Jordan or Bird or players of that caliber to be offering their personal material anytime soon. So this is a great opportunity.”

The auction has already started online at http://www.ha.com and will continue until 10 p.m. on May 13, at which point anyone who has placed a bid on an item will be able to participate in an “extended bid” process. Once a bid has stood for 30 minutes, the item will be awarded to the winner.

Ivy estimated that the entire package of items could fetch between $150,000-200,000. The most sought after items, Ivy said, figure to be Jordan’s game-worn shoes, Fischer’s Olympic ring and a special basketball signed by the entire team that was only given to members of the team.

“I have to live with the reality they are going to belong to someone else,” Fischer said. “Whatever the value is, that’s determined by the people that want to buy them, not by me.”

MORE: Larry Bird, Kim Zmeskal remember Olympic bus meeting in 1992

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