Published on February 20th, 2014 | by Alan Abrahamson
KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia — It has been 12 years since Bode Miller won his first Olympic medals, in Salt Lake City. He is 36 now and these are surely his last Olympic Games.
He is at once one of the most accomplished and one of the most complex figures ever to make his way across the American and international sports landscape.
Bode Miller and his wife Morgan leave the course after the men’s giant slalom, his last race at the 2014 Sochi Games // photo Getty Images
No question he is the best ski racer the United States has ever produced. He has six Olympic medals, including a bronze in the super-G here. He has two overall World Cup titles, 33 World Cup wins, 78 World Cup podium finishes. He is is also one of only five skiers to win World Cup races in five disciplines.
As Miller has often maintained, he doesn’t ski for the medals.
And it is here that the contradictions of Bode Miller clash, often visibly, sometimes — as in Torino in 2006, when he wasn’t feeling it — to his great detriment. This can be no surprise. Great artists come layered with rippled currents of contradiction that play out to powerful effect and in different directions.
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Published on February 19th, 2014 | by Alan Abrahamson
KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia — A couple years ago, they made a rules change in the giant slalom. Citing the interest of athlete safety, they made the skiers change to longer, straighter skis.
Those skis are way harder to turn. Ted Ligety, the American who had ruled the giant slalom, complained bitterly.
And then he figured out a way to ski on those new skis, lower and longer in the turns, that further separated himself from everyone else in the world. He could now win races by astonishing margins.
Ted Ligety in victory after the giant slalom // photo Getty Images
At Wednesday’s men’s super-G at Rosa Khutor, Ted Ligety put on a clinic to win the first American alpine skiing gold of these Olympics. Indeed, he won big. It was one of the great moments of the 2014 Games. Here, for the entire world to bear witness, was sheer excellence — the excellence the sport demands as well as the excellence the man demands of himself.
It was, in a word, awesome.
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Published on February 18th, 2014 | by Alan Abrahamson
KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia — Slovenia’s Tina Maze calls slalom her favorite discipline, which perhaps is a surprise given that it is, of the five alpine ski events, her weakest.
It is giant slalom that brings out her soulful side. “GS,” she says, “is like poetry for me.”
The camera catches Tina Maze making snow angels in victory after the second of her two giant slalom runs // photo Getty Images
In that spirit, after a wild and wet day Tuesday at Rosa Khutor that saw Maze fight through snow, rain, sleet and fog to win her second gold medal of the 2014 Winter Games and indisputably re-establish that she is, no question, the No. 1 female skier on Planet Earth, here is a haiku to commemorate not just the moment but the ski poetry Maze slammed down in winning the GS:
Tina Maze wins
One more Sochi gold medal
What now, Lindsey Vonn?
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Published on February 18th, 2014 | by Alan Abrahamson
KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia — When Michael Phelps would stand on the blocks in an Olympic final and do that thing he did, wrapping his arms around and around and making that whap-whap-whap sound, was there really any doubt in his mind — or anyone’s watching — what was going to happen?
In the chaos of an Olympic short-track speed skating race, when Apolo Ohno toed the line, his bandana tucked under his helmet, his gaze locked like steel on the first few meters of ice ahead, he was all purposeful calm. He knew what was what, and everyone else — on the line around him — and the thousands in the arena did, too.
Mikaela Shiffrin after Tuesday’s racing in the snow, sleet, rain and fog // photo Getty Images
It takes great physical talent to become an Olympic athlete. A select few have something more. They have an extra level of mental awareness, purposefulness, toughness.
Even on a day when there is no medal — there are those in whom the signs are there of greatness assuredly to come.
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Published on February 16th, 2014 | by Alan Abrahamson
KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia — It has been manifest since he strapped his boots into into skis here at the Rosa Khutor complex that Bode Miller was racing with a higher sense of purpose at these Olympic Games.
He has wanted it bad, perhaps too badly, sought in the expression of sport and art that has always been his calling, in the rush of a minute or maybe two in the joinder of man and mountain, to find that moment of clarity and, indeed, of transcendence.
Morgan Miller, right, comforts her husband Bode in the finish area after Sunday’s super-G // photo Getty Images
At the bottom of the hill Sunday, when the big scoreboard said he was on his way to winning an Olympic medal for the sixth time in his storied career, Bode Miller cried. His wife, Morgan, cried. They hugged each other. Holding an American flag, she helped him regain his composure amid television interviews. Later, on the podium, the flag draped over his right shoulder, before congratulating the others — because Bode Miller has always believed in sportsmanship — he appeared to be alone with his thoughts.
And then it all became clear.
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