Bode Miller's Winter Games
I gathered huge amounts of valuable information that I didn’t think other people were able to gather. It wasn’t like if I fell in the river I’d say, “Don’t walk in the river anymore.” I always got much more specific than that. If I’m going to walk in the river, I’d say, “Pay attention. Don’t step on these kinds of rocks that are way too slippery or will move when you stand on them.” That’s the stuff that made it more fun and only made me want to put myself in more situations like that.
It was the same with skiing. Why did I crash? Was it execution? Was I in over my head? Lots of times I got in over my head trying to follow those guys. I’d get to the bottom and say, “That was pure luck that I didn’t just cartwheel into the woods.”
One of my biggest strengths is the ability to accurately analyze and access and pick out the stuff that matters — a really good skill for an athlete. You don’t crash just when you’re going fast. Sometimes you crash when you’re going slow. A lot of kids will say, “Oh, my God, I was going too fast,” and a lot of times how fast they were going had nothing to do with why they crashed. They’ll use that one circumstance and it will set them back — sometimes for the rest of their lives.
There’s no such thing as a perfect run, never even perfect turns. The closest you can come is perfect effort. When you’re in the starting gate and feel completely free of outside influence or expectations or embarrassment or worry. Then you go and you absolutely live the entire run in the present. That’s the perfect effort. If you make great turns, you don’t celebrate it, because it’s gone. If you make a mistake, you don’t dwell on it — all you’re doing is dealing with the moment right there.
I don’t mind criticism, I don’t mind it at all, even when it’s not fair or it’s not based on truth. I still don’t even mind it then. But nobody seems to take an analytical look at my process. They say I don’t train or I don’t care or I party too much, but I’ve beaten everybody in the world by doing the stuff that I do — but nobody writes about that.
If I don’t train, how come I’ve been able to beat everybody else? It’s because I have the ability to analyze and assess the situation, come up with a plan and execute — and it takes a huge amount of intensity to do that stuff. There’s never been an article to look at that. It’s too much of a contrast there for people to believe that somebody with my personality also has the grit and determination to do the kind of stuff you have to do to be at the top of this sport.
The criticism only matters if there is some rapport there; there has to be some level of mutual respect. A lot of the criticism was from people who don’t know what they’re talking about. They are people who only watch skiing at the Olympics.
Your challenges are what define 95 percent of the people in the world. It’s whether you get to define those challenges yourself or whether they’re defined for you. Most people suck at defining challenges for themselves. They’re always too soft on themselves. They don’t really want to have a really legitimate challenge in front of them, because what happens if they fail?
Once you get to the very top, the eating situation, the sleeping situation, the amount of dry-land training you can do in the wintertime, the way you travel, the way you deal with media — all those things have an impact on how you perform. Over the past three years, after I got my motor home, I took on the responsibility — I spent $50,000 to $60,000 a year to take care of my own food and sleeping. The problem was, I didn’t have a personal assistant or a public relations person to deal with the perception that my motor home was about partying, about the chicks. The ski team is in Europe for five months, traveling from one hotel to another, and if I want to perform my best, I need to address the two most important issues for me as an athlete — sleeping and eating.
I do not want to retire. I love skiing. I love racing. But it has to balance out. The last couple of years it hasn’t really been balancing out.
This season, I hired a coach who was a coach of mine since I first made the U.S. Ski Team. He left to spend more time with his family, but I hired him to do my dry-land training program during the winter. I always come into the season really strong — my training during the fall is as good as anyone’s in the world for getting me ready to win races. But it drops off once the season starts. I don’t have the facilities any more. I don’t have the equipment I need. It all goes by the wayside. The last five years I’ve always had a slump in January. And I’m taking on a personal assistant who’ll help me with the media.