BE LIKE BODE?

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Dec 052005
 
Authors: Drew Haugen

BEAVER CREEK – Bode Miller's hips and hands gathered snow as he struggled to regain his balance. He sank his edges into the snow as he cut past the next gate. He looked as though he might fall with every cut he makes.

For the lower portion of the course after the mistake, Miller said he was screaming "a straight-out war cry."

Four gates from the finish, he nearly fell again, sitting back on his skis to regain his balance once more. He sprinted to the finish.

He only seemed stable as he sprayed the finish zone with powder as he slowed himself, panting in his billowing white cloud of snow.

He is the last racer for this second run of the Men's Giant Slalom at Beaver Creek, and before this run, he trailed his teammate Daron Rahlves, who looked on from the Winner's Circle; Miller was the only person left to unseat Rahlves.

Miller whipped around to look at the screen for his results: Miller -0.49, rank: 1. The crowd erupted as Miller turned from the screen and collapsed backward onto the snow, pumping his arms. Rahlves joined Bode in the finish area, and the two proceed to the podium together.

Sometimes Miller falls. More recently, Miller won by almost falling. His bold and reckless style is exciting and successful. And with the ability to win in any of the four disciplines of ski racing, Bode Miller has become a symbol of the sport. He has been adorned by some with the title of "the Michael Jordan of ski racing."

And indeed his spirit and character is much like Jordan's with the excitement and energy it inspires in his fans, spectators, teammates and competition.

During the first run of the Birds of Prey Slalom Sunday, the harsh wind, poor visibility and difficult course claimed many ski racers. They missed gates, lost skis and fell forward, tumbling in spectacular fashion.

Sadly, Bode's fate was the same as these racers, missing a gate in the beginning of the difficult Slalom course. But unlike the other racers, who angrily released their bindings or skied down the shoulder of the course, Bode Miller looked upward to see which gate he missed, hiked up to the gate and proceeded to finish the course.

Could he have been trying to finish his first run in hopes of making the top 30, thus entitling himself to a second run? Possibly. Was he still trying to win the race? Doubtful, as his run time was more than 20 seconds slower than the leader, Austria's Benjamin Raich.

No, Miller did something different than his contemporaries on Sunday, but something not new to his athletic style. He persisted.

"I have the confidence to bang my head against the wall a thousand times, knowing that eventually I'm going to break through," Miller said in an interview documented in the film In Search of Speed, a biography on the skiing careers of Rahlves and himself.

Miller shows young ski racers that determination yields success, and his determination still shows with efforts like the victory in the GS and in his hike in the Slalom at the Birds of Prey over the weekend in Beaver Creek.

At the races, a new Nike campaign distributed shirts, stickers, buttons and posters of Miller. His image is the same on all the paraphernalia: a black and white cartoon Miller sporting a Stalin-esque upward-right head cock, with a background of crossed skis and the slogan "Join Bode."

Miller has simultaneously rejuvenated and reinvigorated the U.S. Ski Team and the sport of ski racing. In doing so, he has forged a new image for success as a professional athlete at the international level.

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