Upon exit from Sochi stage, Bode Miller remains contradictory figure


KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia — It has been 12 years since Bode Miller won his first Olympic medals, in Salt Lake City. He is 36 now and these are surely his last Olympic Games.

He is at once one of the most accomplished and one of the most complex figures ever to make his way across the American and international sports landscape.

No question he is the best ski racer the United States has ever produced. He has six Olympic medals, including a bronze in the super-G here. He has two overall World Cup titles, 33 World Cup wins, 78 World Cup podium finishes. He is also one of only five skiers to win World Cup races in five disciplines.

As Miller has often maintained, he doesn’t ski for the medals.

And it is here that the contradictions of Miller clash, often visibly, sometimes — as in Torino in 2006, when he wasn’t feeling it — to his great detriment. This can be no surprise. Great artists come layered with rippled currents of contradiction that play out to powerful effect and in different directions.

“It’s part of the story,” said Bill Marolt, the president and chief executive of the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association. “When the final piece of art is finished, it will be a masterpiece.”

RELATED: What makes Bode Miller great after all these years?

Marolt also said of Miller, “You talk about talented people. In my mind, in my eyes, he’s a phenomenon in the truest sense of the word. He has this incredible athletic ability. We say that a lot. But in his case, it’s really true. He has athletic talent, ability and at the same time he has got that will to focus in the moment and to make things happen.”

After the controversy, for instance, over his tears amid the super-G bronze, Miller was asked Wednesday after finishing in 20th place in the giant slalom about his emotional state.

He said, “I’m good. Those days don’t really seem to rock me too hard at the moment. It’s incredible. There’s a lot of stuff going on. Afterward, you move on. You focus. Bad result, good result. In skiing, the next day comes whether you are ready for it or not. I knew I had races I wanted to be prepared for and wanted to be ready for.”

To even try to understand Miller, and his station not just in skiing but in American and international sports, it helps to think of him, truly, as a performance artist. His canvas, as it were, is the mountain. He does things there that nobody — repeat, nobody — has done before and likely nobody will do again.

RELATED: Bode Miller – Life in the fast lane

On the race course, he gives it 100 percent, always. He recovers from near-disasters like no one else.

As he said in winning that super-G bronze, “Missing opportunities, unfortunately, is just what it sounds like. It’s just missed opportunities. I don’t feel like it can compensate for something I missed in the past. The mistakes I’ve been making are costly. It cost me again today,” because but for an error on the last jump he might well have had gold.

“But, you know, they are mistakes born of intensity and focus and probably pushing too hard, which, you know, I have dealt with a lot in my career. If there is a fault I can accept, it’s that I push too hard in these big days, these big moments.

“I don’t like to think that I came down and skied 80 percent, even though on these days with the conditions like this, for me 80 percent would probably get me more medals. But it just doesn’t feel right. So I go out and ski as hard as I can and deal with the consequences.”

RELATED: Through the lens – Bode Miller

It has been that way since he was little.

The story of how Miller grew up in the backwoods in New Hampshire is well known. It need not be revisited. Except for this:

“I was sort of born into it,” he said here. “I had no babysitter or anything. I spent most of my childhood on the mountain, just doing my own thing. I think it was more the independence, the freedom I fell in love with. The skiing grew on me over time.”

The inherent contradiction, of course, is that skiing is rife with rules. Arcane rules. Incredibly minute details, in fact, that matter intensely in a sport in which hundredths of a second make the difference between winning and losing.

RELATED: Bode Miller – I’ve got Games

Miller, acknowledging Wednesday after that 20th spot, “It’s tough to have my last race here look like this,” quickly said nonetheless, “I feel good about where I’m at. I came back really strong,” from a knee problem that kept him out all last season. “I really did a lot of work. I put in the time. That’s a really positive feeling. Yeah, I feel like I did my best.”

It’s double knee problems that are keeping him from racing the slalom. He missed all of last season after enduring microfracture surgery on the left knee. He twisted the right knee in a bad crash in a GS race in St. Moritz, Switzerland, a week before the Olympic downhill.

On the one hand, Miller absolutely put in the time and got himself into peak condition.

On the other, after rocking the three downhill training runs — finishing first, sixth, first — Miller came in eighth on race day. The training runs had come on bright, sunny days. Race day went down in cloudier conditions. Miller said after the race that he was supposed to have had laser eye surgery before Sochi but somehow didn’t find time to fit it into his schedule: “I haven’t won in five years when the sun is not out,” he said.

RELATED: Vancouver flashback – Bode wins gold

At 36, the man couldn’t take care of that sort of essential business? Really?

Perhaps this is why Miller has always preferred to riff about skiing for the essence of it rather than chasing victory.

And yet — he for sure wants to win.

Let’s not kid ourselves.

Because, yes, no one can or should doubt he is in it for the transcendent moment when he tests himself against the mountain, when he willingly pushes fear to the side, throwing himself down a river of ice to see what might happen. It just might be great. This is why wherever he goes the crowds chant his name.

RELATED: Emotional Bode medals in race that mattered most

“We have all had our moments,” Marolt said. “As you see him now, today, what he has done not only for himself and his family but for our organization and the entire Olympic movement — we are sitting here in Russia and Bode Miller’s picture comes up on the screen and people cheer like hell. They know him and they love him. You don’t see that but for a very few athletes.

“And in my experience — none where he so captivates the public and the audience where they see his name and his face, and it happens everywhere.”

At the same time, let’s not be naive. When he is in the start gate, Miller is in it to win it.

Here he finally said so.

Before the downhill, his first race here, he said, “The idea is to be unbeatable,” adding a moment later, “I’m going to be ready. I want to win.”

RELATED: Bode defends interviewer, says he was ‘super-emotional’

After the giant slalom, his last race, he said, “Obviously, I feel like I was capable of more. My effort, my intensity, I think was as good as I could possibly put out there. It’s tough. Benny Raich,” the veteran Austrian skier, “said to me today, he said, ‘It’s always tough. It’s never easy out there.’

“The Olympics is always a super-challenging situation because you come in, you want to do everything you can but only one guy wins. That’s, you know, I really feel like I did what I could. I came out with a medal. So I’m happy.”

2023 French Open men’s singles draw

Novak Djokovic, Carlos Alcaraz
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The French Open men’s singles draw is missing injured 14-time champion Rafael Nadal for the first time since 2004, leaving the Coupe des Mousquetaires ripe for the taking.

The tournament airs live on NBC Sports, Peacock and Tennis Channel through championship points in Paris.

Novak Djokovic is not only bidding for a third crown at Roland Garros, but also to lift a 23rd Grand Slam singles trophy to break his tie with Nadal for the most in men’s history.

FRENCH OPEN: Broadcast Schedule | Women’s Draw

But the No. 1 seed is Spaniard Carlos Alcaraz, who won last year’s U.S. Open to become, at 19, the youngest man to win a major since Nadal’s first French Open title in 2005.

Now Alcaraz looks to become the second-youngest man to win at Roland Garros since 1989, after Nadal of course.

Alcaraz missed the Australian Open in January due to a right leg injury, but since went 30-3 with four titles. Notably, he has not faced Djokovic this year. They meet in Friday’s semifinals.

Russian Daniil Medvedev, the No. 2 seed, was upset in the first round by 172nd-ranked Brazilian qualifier Thiago Seyboth Wild. It marked the first time a men’s top-two seed lost in the first round of any major since 2003 Wimbledon (Ivo Karlovic d. Lleyton Hewitt).

All of the American men lost before the fourth round. The last U.S. man to make the French Open quarterfinals was Andre Agassi in 2003.

MORE: All you need to know for 2023 French Open

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2023 French Open Men’s Singles Draw

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IOC board recommends withdrawing International Boxing Association’s recognition

Tokyo 2020 Olympics: Boxing

The IOC finally ran out of patience with the International Boxing Federation on Wednesday and set a date to terminate its Olympic status this month.

While boxing will still be on the program at the 2024 Paris Games, the International Olympic Committee said its executive board has asked the full membership to withdraw its recognition of the IBA at a special meeting on June 22.

IOC members rarely vote against recommendations from their 15-member board and the IBA’s ouster is likely a formality.

The IOC had already suspended the IBA’s recognition in 2019 over long-standing financial, sports integrity and governance issues. The Olympic body oversaw the boxing competitions itself at the Tokyo Olympics held in 2021 and will do so again for Paris.

An IOC statement said the boxing body “has failed to fulfil the conditions set by the IOC … for lifting the suspension of the IBA’s recognition.”

The IBA criticized what it called a “truly abhorrent and purely political” decision by the IOC and warned of “retaliatory measures.”

“Now, we are left with no chance but to demand a fair assessment from a competent court,” the boxing body’s Russian president Umar Kremlev said in a statement.

The IOC-IBA standoff has also put boxing’s place at the 2028 Los Angeles Games at risk, though that should now be resolved.

The IOC previously stressed it has no problem with the sport or its athletes — just the IBA and its current president Kremlev, plus financial dependence on Russian state energy firm Gazprom.

In a 24-page report on IBA issues published Wednesday, the IOC concluded “the accumulation of all of these points, and the constant lack of drastic evolution throughout the many years, creates a situation of no-return.”

Olympic boxing’s reputation has been in question for decades. Tensions heightened after boxing officials worldwide ousted long-time IOC member C.K. Wu as their president in 2017 when the organization was known by its French acronym AIBA.

“From a disreputable organization named AIBA governed by someone from the IOC’s upper echelon, we committed to and executed a change in the toxic and corrupt culture that was allowed to fester under the IOC for far too long,” Kremlev said Wednesday in a statement.

National federations then defied IOC warnings in 2018 by electing as their president Gafur Rakhimov, a businessman from Uzbekistan with alleged ties to organized crime and heroin trafficking.

Kremlev’s election to replace Rakhimov in 2020 followed another round of IOC warnings that went unheeded.

Amid the IBA turmoil, a rival organization called World Boxing has attracted initial support from officials in the United States, Switzerland and Britain.

The IBA can still continue to organize its own events and held the men’s world championships last month in the Uzbek capital Tashkent.

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