Monday, February 20, 2006

After the Bode build-up, the Bode bash...

The hype over U.S. downhill skier Bode Miller has been building for months because, well, the people who have the job of writing about the Olympics need good stories and he sure looked like one: a bad boy who plays by his own rules and still manages to win time and again.
But when the bad boy doesn't hold to that one-sentence label, it becomes time for the label makers to tear him apart: case in point, Sunday's New York Times front-pager "Hitched to Miller, U.S. Skiing Slips Off Course"
It starts:

Bode Miller released an autobiography last year, "Bode: Go Fast, Be Good, Have Fun."
It is catchier than "Fifth Place, Disqualified, Did Not Finish."

And goes on to say:

United States ski team officials did not discuss Miller's latest failure. Over the years, they have tolerated his wild-child act, especially after his many successes last season. But with the team having disappointing results, Miller's collapse has cast a malaise on athletes who had hoped to challenge the vaunted Austrians for dominance in Olympic Alpine skiing.

A week into the Alpine competition that was supposed to set Miller up as the most decorated American Olympic skier ever, he has finished fifth in the downhill, blown a large early lead in the combined when he straddled a gate and skidded off the racecourse in one of his best events.

"We're all having our problems, not just Bode," Daron Rahlves, another multiple-medal contender for the United States who has been shut out here, said Saturday. Rahlves finished 9th Saturday and was 10th in the downhill. "I didn't feel I had it today. I don't know what's going on exactly. It's kind of strange."

Miller's failures have been amplified by his apathetic, almost bored, postrace reactions and numerous sightings of him in the few nightclubs of this small village in the western Italian Alps. Publicly, United States ski team officials have generally not commented on Miller's performances on or off the slopes. But Miller, who won two silver medals at the 2002 Winter Games, was the face of the team and was expected to lead the American skiers to their stated goal of eight Olympic medals.

They have instead won one medal, a gold earned by a little-known 21-year-old, Ted Ligety.

In Miller, the United States ski team finds itself hitched to a mercurial contrarian who has always said he does not value medals or victories, but the team did not know that Miller would pick this fortnight to prove that he meant what he said.

Ouch! Will this all change if Bode wins in his last chance to grab a medal?

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