Bode Miller is known for his aggressive nature on the slopes, a hold-nothing-back approach that’s led to plenty of success and spills.
When it comes to his surgically repaired left knee, Miller will hold back and take a much more cautious route, especially with the 2014 Sochi Olympics just around the corner.
Miller has elected to skip the remaining portion of the World Cup season, along with world championships, to give the knee more time to heal. The two-time overall champion had microfracture surgery nearly a year ago and doesn’t want any sort of setback with the Olympics — his last one, he said — so close. Because another injury would probably end his career.
Still, it’s a little strange without Miller heading to the starting gate. He’s missed a few races in his career, but he hasn’t sat out a full season since his debut in 1997.
“It was tough for me to miss a season of ski racing, but this decision was easy for me when I look at my opportunity next year,” the 35-year-old Miller said in a press release Wednesday. “I have said many times that motivation is a key trait for me when it comes to my racing — I am super motivated to do great things next year.”
Miller has been so successful by doing things his way, on his terms. That gambler’s mentality has served him well in his career, leading to five Olympic medals — including that elusive gold at the 2010 Vancouver Games — four world championships and 33 World Cup wins, which is an American men’s record.
U.S. coach Sasha Rearick applauded Miller’s decision to slow down and not rush back to racing. He wants Miller healthy in a year, not skiing on the circuit just for the sake of skiing on the circuit.
“It is an incredibly smart and strategic decision by Bode,” Rearick said. “He’s become legendary for pushing the limits of what is possible on skis, but knows an additional injury to his knee could put the 2014 Olympics in jeopardy.
“At this point, he is not fully recovered to race and has turned his focus to being 100 percent fit for Sochi.”
Can Miller round back into elite form after taking an entire season off?
“If you commit to getting healthy and coming back, you can do that,” teammate Ted Ligety said. “He’s obviously missed on the World Cup because he’s one of the big favorites.”
Since he’s not speeding down courses on the circuit, Miller may just take advantage of this unique opportunity: In exchange for allowing their skiers to squeeze in some early season runs at the U.S. Ski Team’s speed center in Copper Mountain, the Russians are inviting some of the Americans to Sochi in February to train.
“I think a big part of his focus this year is the training block in Sochi where he will be there for the two weeks and more,” Ligety said. “It’s not like he is not skiing.”
Miller’s extended hiatus wasn’t a shock to his fellow skiers. They pretty much figured Miller wouldn’t ski this season.
“I spoke to him in Beaver Creek (Colo.) and he was saying that he is focused on the Olympics, and he still had troubles with his knee,” Austrian skier Klaus Kroell said.
By shutting things down early, Miller won’t lose his starting position at World Cup races next season. He will still begin with the top skiers in the world, not near the bottom when the snow has been trampled and filled with ruts.
Off the slopes, this has been a big year for Miller. He married pro volleyball player Morgan Miller on Oct. 7, and the couple is expecting their first child in August. Miller has a young daughter from a previous relationship.
Miller has had his share of drama away from skiing. In December, Miller accidentally hit his wife in the eye with a golf ball. Later, on Twitter, he posted, “Hit wife w golfball. (hash)worstfeelingever.”
Photos of his wife last month showed her left eye completely closed and badly bloodied. She ended up getting more than 50 stitches.
She later posted: “I’m not feeling so hot. Line drive to the face today with a golf ball from my darling husband. I still love.”
AP Sports Writer Graham Dunbar in Wengen, Switzerland, contributed.
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