Bode Miller knows all about convention: He's ignored it his entire life. But the "Great Hippie Hope" went mainstream last season. His four World Cup wins-some by monstrous margins-earned him the awe of fellow competitors, while his two Olympic silver medals popped his image securely into American households. On the hill, his gutsy all-or-nothing style courts criticism from some while defying imitation from others. Off the slopes, the personable 24-year-old, with 6 feet 2 inches of All-American good looks, is the genuine, straight-talking, free-spirited sports hero we thought to be extinct. Yes girls, he is taken; and no, fame hasn't changed him a bit. He no longer lives in the privy-less log cabin of his youth, but he does spend his precious off-season as a coach and camp counselor at his family's tennis camp.
SKI What's your best tennis advice?
BM Repetition. If you hit hundreds of balls, you'll get the timing. I'm not a huge proponent on exact position and technique. If it works for you, do it.
SKI Sounds familiar. Is that your secret to success in skiing as well?
BM My success last year was a combination of momentum and having worked consistently for five years. I finally had the right bag of tricks and the ability to use them instinctively. And you have to get lucky at the right time.
SKI You've been criticized for not listening to coaches. Is that fair?
BM It's an uneducated comment. Everyone acts like I was just tactically stupid for five years and that this year I finally started listening to my coaches. In reality, I stuck to my plan and was doing the things I needed to do for it to all come together.
SKI What was your best moment last season?
BM Being on the podium in the finish of the Olympic GS (a first for an American male). It was not only such a clutch performance-on home turf, starting first-but it was in the toughest, most competitive event. I inspired even myself.
SKI Is it true that in Europe you are even bigger than Hermann Maier?
BM Not bigger but more versatile. Maier isn't very friendly. (Alberto) Tomba was the last to bridge the gap between nations. Because I'm American, and because I'm different, people tend to like me a little bit everywhere.
SKI You recently switched to Rossignol skis. Isn't that risky?
BM It's not. I want to be No. 1 and so does Rossignol. They bring the reputation, the ambition and the resources to be the best out there. They can turn around a new ski design in a week.
SKI What are your goals for this season?
BM I don't really put specific goals down on paper because there are things in my head that never change.
SKI Such as?
BM Making sure I enjoy my sport. As soon as it's up, it's up-and I have no problem with that.
SKI You are committed to helping kids. What should they know about you?
BM My life motto is to try to make myself happy. I figure out what I like to do, then figure out how to do it all the time. So far I've done a pretty good job at being able to do that.
SKI Senior Contributor Edie Thys was the top U.S. Ski Team finisher in the 1988 Winter Olympics.