After frustrating coaches with his stubbornness, amazing fellow racers with his nearly spooky skills and charming fans everywhere with his gunslinger's verve, Bode Miller is now officially King of the Hill. The 27-year-old New Hampshire native won the sport's top honor, the overall World Cup title, in March, becoming the first American to reach that pinnacle since Phil Mahre and Tamara McKinney in 1983. "I'm not a very objective-based athlete, Miller said after winning the crown. "But this is one of the few objective goals I really felt was worthy of writing down.
Miller had a season for the ages. One of the few skiers who can win any event on any given day, he won in all four disciplines in a 16-day period—the first racer to do so—in a stunning display of a range of skills in an increasingly specialized sport. Known for his athletic recoveries, Miller simply can do things that others can't get away with. However, his high-risk approach landed him in the DNF category 11 times, the most ever by an eventual champion.
"It was a great day for U.S. skiing, says Mahre, who won three consecutive crowns (1981-83), "but this should have been Bode's third title. He calls Miller "a true talent, yet one that could benefit from better tactical decisions, such as earning points by finishing races.
Miller's go-for-broke attitude has made him a crowd favorite, especially in Europe, where they view the rugged 6-2, 210-pound racer as a cowboy on skis. There's no getting away from Miller's nonconformist orientation. He was raised in a cabin without plumbing, home-schooled by his parents and is largely a self-taught skier.
Next up are the Turin Winter Olympics in February. Miller says he needs to "find the motivation to compete. "If it's to become more famous, I have no interest in that. If it's to earn more money, I have no interest in that. If it's to prove I'm the best ski racer, he says, "I think I've proved that this year.