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Bode Miller: Mikaela Shiffrin can win 5 medals, may be best ever already

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Bode Miller said he believes Mikaela Shiffrin has “an outside shot” at five medals in PyeongChang and could already be the greatest Alpine skier ever at age 22, according to Reuters.

“I think she’s maybe the best ski racer I’ve ever seen, male or female,” the NBC Olympics analyst Miller said, according to the report. “She’s so balanced, dynamic, intense and focused, so for me, I think she’s got a chance in any event she skis in.

 “I would say it’s likely she wins two [Olympic] golds. I would say an outside shot at five medals, and I think probably, at her best, maybe three or four of them are golds.”

The praise likely means plenty to Shiffrin, who idolizes the retired Miller. Shiffrin watched his movie, “Flying Downhill,” hundreds of times as a kid, according to the Denver Post.

Shiffrin already has more World Cup wins than Miller — 38 to 33 — and would match Miller’s U.S. Olympic skiing record of six medals if she gets five in PyeongChang.

The record for Alpine medals at one Olympics is four, set by Croatian Janica Kostelic in 2002.

Shiffrin, who won a gold medal in Sochi as the youngest Olympic slalom champion, has blossomed into an all-event skier in the last two years.

She leads this season’s World Cup standings in the slalom and downhill, plus ranks second in the giant slalom, having won seven of her 14 starts across all disciplines.

The women haven’t raced a super combined yet this season, but given that event is a mix of slalom and downhill, she would be a favorite there.

Shiffrin’s plan has been to race the slalom, giant slalom, super-G and super combined in PyeongChang. She could add the downhill and the team event, which come late in the Olympic schedule.

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Bode Miller joins NBC Olympics, explains end of ski racing career

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Bode Miller will head to PyeongChang as an Alpine skiing analyst for NBC Olympics, rather than bid to make a sixth Olympic team at age 40.

Miller, the most decorated U.S. Olympic skier with six medals, called his decision not to race again “easy.” He made it months ago. Nothing changed in his life that made him rethink it.

“It had kind of been a long time coming,” said Miller, who last raced at the February 2015 World Championships, severing a hamstring tendon in a super-G crash (video here). “But just with my kids and the time and life, when I look at skiing now, I don’t really feel like I have anything, the motivation, the desire, the everything to kind of go through it again. Aside from the logistical challenges and my priorities and my family being first and not being able to put any of that aside to train and prepare the way I know I need to, I have so much experience. I know there’s no shortcuts in what I would have to do to really take a pretty solid commitment on my part. That would mean sacrificing a lot of other things.

“It would be one thing if it was a different sport like, you know, golf or tennis or something where I could go out there and limp into it. But skiing is just so dangerous and risky, and there’s so much there that can go bad for you. I think just the preparation for it is so demanding. It’s just not feasible to get that done.”

It’s the end of arguably the greatest Olympic skiing career in U.S. history.

Miller, who debuted at the Olympics in 1998 at age 20, earned two silver medals in 2002, a medal of every color in 2010 (after a well-publicized failure in 2006) and a bronze in 2014 (oldest Olympic Alpine medalist in history).

Only retired short track speed skater Apolo Ohno has more Winter Olympic medals among Americans with eight.

Miller also won world championships in four different disciplines and a pair of World Cup overall titles.

What will he miss? Any regrets?

“I never really feel like I miss anything,” he said. “I had such a long career. I think things ran their course. I tend to process things pretty much real time. I think that I was aware as I went through it I made sure I got the most out of skiing and my experiences. … I definitely don’t have regrets about the way that I did things.”

Miller did things his way. On the race courses with a trademark go-for-broke style. Off of it, too. He rubbed some the wrong way and even competed separate from the U.S. Ski Team at times.

“Of course, I made a lot of mistakes and stupid things, but above all I was able to do it the way that I wanted to and the way that I felt I should,” Miller said. “That, I think, is my biggest accomplishment.”

Miller is the first of the golden generation of U.S. Alpiners to bring the curtain down. Miller, Ted LigetyLindsey Vonn and Julia Mancuso all developed in the early 2000s and won Olympic gold medals.

The PyeongChang Winter Games are expected to be the final Olympics for Vonn and Mancuso. Ligety, at 33 years old with a wife and child, has not ruled out 2022.

Miller gained experience as an analyst for NBC Sports the last two World Cup seasons. It came pretty naturally. He has no reservations offering critical analysis of his former peers.

“I think people have always pointed out that I can be critical and kind of harsh that way,” Miller said. “Once you get to know me, or once you see that it’s never done in a malicious way at all, I just don’t have that in me. It’s not coming from a place of mean. It’s coming from a place of stating factual stuff from my perspective. I think people are OK with that for the most part.”

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Bode Miller off U.S. ski roster, but has invitation to race

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Bode Miller‘s name no longer appears on the roster of the U.S. ski team. That doesn’t mean he’s retiring or won’t ever race again or that his chances of making a sixth Olympic squad have ended.

The situation is just hazy.

“I’m not going to say [Miller won’t be at the Olympics], because it’s Bode Miller,” U.S. men’s coach Sasha Rearick said by telephone. “Who knows? But my expectations of that aren’t high.”

The team announced its nominations Thursday for the 2017-18 World Cup season. The familiar names are all there — Lindsey Vonn, Mikaela Shiffrin, Julia Mancuso and Ted Ligety — with the official roster set to be released closer to November when the season starts.

But Miller is now listed as “alumni,” with his chances of making the Pyeongchang Olympics in February very much uncertain. He turns 40 in October and hasn’t competitively raced since severing his right hamstring tendon during a super-G crash at the world championships in February 2015 (video here).

To have a shot at making the U.S. Olympic squad, Miller will have to demonstrate his speed at World Cup races. There are no automatic spots.

“We’ve proposed to Bode several options for training and racing through the last year and especially this summer … in terms of trying to get him going again. The moving parts never lined up in the right way,” Rearick explained. “Bode and I have had a tremendous run over the years and when we commit to something together, we’ve been able to have a lot of fun working hard and trying to make the impossible happen.

“Right now, with where he’s at with his family, where he’s at with his equipment, where he’s at with other aspects of his life, we both didn’t have that same commitment to making a big run at this together.”

The door is always open, though. Should Miller want to step into a World Cup starting gate again, Rearick said he would give Miller that chance “without hesitation.”

“Bode Miller’s career has definitely earned him that opportunity,” Rearick said.

His resume includes 33 World Cup win, two overall titles, four world championships and six Olympic medals, including gold at the 2010 Vancouver Games in the super-combined.

These days, Miller certainly has a full plate. He’s big into horse racing, with Fast and Accurate — a horse he bought a stake in — finishing 17th at the Kentucky Derby. He has four kids, two with professional beach volleyball player Morgan Miller, and other business endeavors.

One thing behind him is a public spat with ski manufacturer Head. Miller ended his nearly 10-year partnership with Head in 2015 and signed an agreement to not use other skis in World Cup or world championship races for two years. He was attempting to get out of the remainder of the deal so he could race on skis by New York-based Bomber, which he helped develop.

At a fundraiser in Aspen, Colo., two months ago, he told the crowd his chances of a return this season were around “60-40.” But he quickly cautioned he would have to be the “most-fit guy on the hill. If I could do it and make it through the prep period, that’s a big piece of the puzzle.”

Seeing Miller return to racing wouldn’t surprise Rearick. Seeing him step away wouldn’t, either.

After all, this is Miller.

“Bode’s self-expression on the hill inspired millions and millions to love him and love U.S. skiing and love ski racing,” Rearick said. “I hope we can all remember those great moments.”

NOTES: Ligety (back) and Steven Nyman (knee) are quickly mending from surgery this year. Ligety should be full speed ahead by August and Nyman closer to October. … Rearick is looking forward to working again with John “Johno” McBride, who rejoins the U.S. squad as the men’s speed team head coach. Alex Hoedlmoser, who had the role, switches to the women’s side and will support Chris Knight in working with Vonn. Chip White also returns as the head women’s speed coach.

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