The most-hyped Winter Olympic athlete of 2006 is now the most decorated athlete of the 2010 Games.
Eight years after winning two silver medals in Salt Lake City and four years after his disappointing and controversial flameout in Turin, American skiing star Bode Miller earned his long-awaited Olympic gold Sunday at Whistler. Though he almost collapsed near the finish line, Miller won the men's super combined with a stellar slalom run that vaulted him from seventh place to the top of the podium. It's the third medal at Vancouver for Miller, the most of any male athlete thus far.
In Turin, Miller led the same event after the downhill run but was disqualified during the slalom after missing a gate. This time, he skied the fastest slalom time of anyone in the top 10. Three of the top five skiers, including leader and downhill gold medalist Aksel Lund Svindal of Norway, failed to finish their slalom runs.
Miller now has three medals in Vancouver and five overall for his Olympic career. (That gives him two more than any other skier in American history.) This is his first time atop the medal stand.
It's a far cry from last year, when there were questions as to whether Miller would ever ski again.
After he left the U.S. ski team in 2007 and won the 2008 World Cup championship as an independent, he had the worst year of his professional career in 2009. Injuries and burnout left him without any victories for the first time since 2002.
He hinted at retirement – then returned to the team for the 2010 season and made the Olympic team. But his lack of training almost cost him gold Sunday.
Tired from the exhaustion of four races in seven days, Miller almost collapsed near the finish line of the slalom. "My legs started feeling really wobbly," he said. "I didn't even feel like I was looking at the gate anymore."
We'll leave the examinations of Bode Miller's conditioning, psyche and attitude to armchair psychologists. He always had the talent and he's put it together in Vancouver.
Bode Miller is as good as advertised. He just needed four years to prove it.
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