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Q&A with Bode Miller after he won his third World Cup of the season Jan. 6 in a slalom at Adelboden, Switzerland.
Miller (Franconia, NH) spoke with nearly a dozen national and regional journalists in a 30-minute teleconference a few hours after his slalom victory in Adelboden, the first time a U.S. skier has won three World Cup races in a season since Phil Mahre during the 1983 season.
Sounds like you had some fun today.
It wasn’t too bad. The weather was perfect; you can’t ask for better weather. The snow was a little chunky, though. They injected it but it didn’t take. It was good but it was also consistent. Certain gates were hard and certain gates were soft and there were a few spots where there were holes.
There are some steep and nasty parts on Adelboden’s course.
Yeah, like Kranjska Gora where he skied out on his second run after leading the first run where I didn’t know what happened. I was cruising, got late, went out and hooked a tip. I had to pay attention today, for sure. It’s a hard hill to make it down. But I had good focus. And I had a terrible morning in warmup… It has one of the steepest pitches on the World Cup, especially for slalom. It’s ridiculous.
But didn’t you let it rip on the second run?
I didn’t really let it rip. The course was just tough, and even guys going 70 percent couldn’t make it. The snow was inconsistent so you didn’t know what was gonna happen. I was lucky nothing did happen. I think I skied tactically pretty smart.
Sounds like you had a good race plan.
A certain amount I can’t take all the credit for. I come into most races with a good plan. I know what I can do and can’t do. I make a plan based on inspection and then try to race to that plan. Today, things were different, but I managed to adapt. A lot of guys got caught; they didn’t adapt to the conditions.
I’ve had confidence for all four years I’ve been on the team, on the World Cup. I come into every race ready to win … You have to minimize the things you can’t control. I definitely have the speed, no question — if I’m skiing as fast as I can, I’m about the fastest in the world. But sometimes I go too fast. I have to know when to take it back.
What’s your routine in the start gate?It’s the same sort of mindset people try to get into. You try to clear your head, focus on a few basic things. Some people like to focus on something on the course or a few key words that make them feel calm or confident, or whatever. I clear my head out, do a few deep-breathing meditative things, think about my basic plan about a minute and a half before I go. Standing in the gate I try to slow everything down, my heartbeat, everything…
The team played hockey for dry-land training today. How often do you guys do that?
Actually, I think this was the first time we’ve played this year. Hockey’s not one of our primary sports — we play a ton of soccer, some rugby, and football. It helps establish a pecking order that may not be the on-the-hill pecking order. It’s kind of cool; the people who are best at skiing aren’t always the best at everything else. It’s dangerous but not as dangerous as some sports.
Where are you in that hockey pecking order?
Oh, I move around. It’s mostly just for fun. But it’s good, too, because it’s anaerobic, it’s extremely anaerobic. And it gives you some good balance and movement. I used to play hockey when I was young and I played some recreationally at my boardingschool Maine’s Carrabassett Valley Academy.
You led after the first run. Do you like leading going into the second run?
It doesn’t make a difference. I like it. Both times I’ve been leading after the first run I won the second run and the race, at least in slalom. I feel good. When I’m up at the top, I’m not worried if I’m gonna lose. If I lose I lose, but I don’t worry about it. I just try to think about my plan, breathe, slow things down, and then go for it.
I came into a lot of races last year with a great plan, a great preparation. I was totally psyched and then I just had one of those things I couldn’t control…
What’s different this year?
It’d be nice to say I changed something and it’s night and day. But it’s a combination of things. I’m physically more mature, my body’s maturing on its own, and I have great slalom skis this is his second season on Fischer Skis that were lacking the last four years.And myself, I’m just growing a little at a time.
Any thoughts about being a medal favorite going into the Olympics?I no way respond to pressure in general. It’s not easy to describe. I don’t feel like I’m afraid. It doesn’t scare me to lose. I’ve done that before, so that doesn’t bother me. If I’m in the Olympics and leading the first run, I don’t think about crashing in the second run. It only affects me in one way — I get fired up.
What about the Olympics?
It’s a one-shot deal. You have one chance at it and if you can pull it off, you get your rewards. Really, it’s the essence of the sport but there’s a painful reality when you miss by a hundredth of a second or you hook a tip on the last gate. If I could trade a World Cup win, which I have the capability of winning every weekend or maybe twice a week, for an Olympic medal, I’d go for that trade.
Which would you rather have, an Olympic medal or a World Cup title?Oh, a World Cup title is more important. The Olympic medal is great but it shows either you were lucky or you picked a great day to rip it. A World Cup title shows you were at the top of your spot all year long.
Are you having fun now?
It’s not a bad job. You can imagine, basically, what you like to do the most and getting paid for it. It’s good.
You wear mittens instead of gloves. How did that get started?
I cut my hand on a SoBe bottle when he crashed while skateboarding and the broken bottle cut his hand in 1999. That’s how SoBe became my sponsor. I always drank the stuff and I talked about it on an interview with ESPN and they heard it and liked it and we got together. I cut an artery in my hand — cut five tendons and nerves, through to the bone…something like 94 stitches. It hasn’t come back all the way. My hand doesn’t respond well to cold, so I can keep it warm in the mitten.
How’d you meet your girlfriend?
She went to Middlebury — she’s from Wisconsin — and she had a blown-out knee the same time I did, and we met at Dr. Richard Steadman’s.
Any particular reason for your success this season?
It’s a combination of things. There’s not one new thing that’s changed and is letting me have success. Some of it is core conditioning. I had a good training session this summer where normally I don’t have it because of my injury left ACL, injured in a crash last February during a combined downhill race at the World Championships in Austria. And my equipment is huge. Both Chip Knight and I are on Fischer and Fischer built a slalom ski to our specs; we worked individually with ex-World Cup racer SiegfriedVoglreiter and this is allowing me to ski the way I want to ski.
And some of it’s just time and experience. I know the World Cup hills now. I know how long they are. I just feel more comfortable.