It’s official: With five Olympic medals under his belt, Bode Miller is now the most decorated Alpine skier that has ever come out of the United States. His gold medal victory in Sunday’s super combined sealed his place among an elite group of skiers including legends Jean Claude Killy and the Norwegian Kjetil Andre Aamodt, who have won three medals in a single Olympic Games. And folks, there’s two more ski events to go. The way this boy’s skiing, he’s on track to smash that record.
We’ve heard the hype that surrounds this skier; we’ve heard about his hard partying ways; about his two-year-old daughter with some mystery woman in California; about his unconventional upbringing in the backwoods of New Hampshire; and his great distaste for the media. A teammate on Bode’s high school soccer team summed it up like this: “Bode got us to the state finals. But at the state finals, he wouldn’t pass the ball. And we lost. He tried to do it all himself.” Besides super-human athleticism, Bode’s also been blessed with that ineffable thing that not money, nor fame, nor good looks can buy: charisma.
We sat down with Bode’s dad, Woody Miller, to gain some insight into the enigmatic figure that is quickly becoming the greatest skier of our generation. With his shaggy hair, unkempt beard, and slow, stony drawl, Woody could be mistaken for a half-baked hippy 20 years lost off the Dead lot. However, as with both Miller men, these boys have tricks up their sleeves. In fact, Woody's no slacker: he went to medical school but abandoned the doctor route in favor of running a tennis camp and adopting the now infamous off-the-grid lifestyle Bode grew up with. Here’s Bode’s dad on his medal-winning son:
What’s changed since Turin? He never stopped looking forward to competing, but competing is only a tiny fraction of what his role brings to him, in terms of, not just the media, not just the sponsors, but fans being all over him all the time. Most super stars have quite a large group of people to protect them. In Europe, Bode’s on his own more or less. I’ve visited him there. You try to have a quiet dinner together, there’s people just constantly coming up to him asking ‘Can you take a picture with me? Can you sign this?’ I think he had an amazing tolerance for that for a long period of time and then it just started to weigh on him.
What are his biggest weaknesses? Maybe, uh, not listening to other people.
How often do you guys communicate when he’s competing? I communicate with him. I know he gets my emails but I don’t get very many responses. My father used to say that when trying to communicate with people, that he would try to get them to feel like they thought of the idea, so that he wasn’t telling them the idea. Bode’s not very apt to hear something from somebody that doesn’t agree with him and agree with it right away. It takes quite awhile for him to come around, to change his attitude about things.
Did Bode choose to go into skiing or did you encourage him? He was always totally in love with skiing. I didn’t encourage him or discourage him. He had two uncles who were ski racers and by the time I knew them, their knees were totally screwed up. I just thought that ski racing was a way to get injuries for the rest of your life. He’s a skier because that’s what he chose to do.
Is Bode a ladies’ man? I don’t know. His aunt might have something to say about that.
Melinda (aunt): I’ve always said he hasn’t met the right one yet. When he meets the right one, he’ll settle down.
On that note, we wrapped up the interview. Then, a few hours later, the Miller clan—Woody, Melinda, and Bode’s stepmother, Holly—and I, we went out and partied. Previously impenetrable doors opened (like the one to the Spyder-USSA sponsored event toasting Miller and Weibrecht). Velvet ropes dropped. Funny how that happens when you’re rolling with Bode Miller's crew. In the end, Bode never showed up. People grumbled and rumors flew: This was just typical Bode, too cool for school. Others claimed he’d had taken up with one of the medal presenters and was, um, occupied. But Bode’s dad had a different take on things, “Maybe he just wanted to let Andrew enjoy this moment for himself. Not steal the spotlight.”
So, for the time being, we’ll go with that. Sometimes parents do know best.