The Big Question: Bode Miller
We caught up with 29-year-old Bode Miller two days after the World Cup skier made headlines for a spectacular catch while making a celebrity appearance with the Nashua Pride baseball team. At the heart of his unique training regimen for the upcoming World Cup tour is running in the fast-flowing, boulder-strewn streams of his native White Mountains, hopping from rock to rock — challenging himself as he’s done since childhood.
“It’s been 15 years since I saw a fly ball, but I take pride in giving my best effort and don’t worry about screwing up or making myself look dumb. It took the maximum of my ability to make that catch. That one catch, that one time where you hang it out there and you know that you may look like a total jackass right now and you do it or you don’t — in reality, it’s 50,000 times more important than what everybody else thinks about me.
“Growing up, if I went walking in the river on slippery rocks, I fell. When I got up, I wouldn’t think, Don’t walk in the river anymore. I’d say, ‘All right, my balance wasn’t where it needed to be, or I wasn’t paying attention. If I’m going to walk in the river, 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?
“I grew up burning ass after these local bombers on Cannon Mountain, and they were making runs as fast as they could. I’d get on the same tram that they were on and they’d be like, ‘Who’s this kid that keeps following us?’ I’m one-eighth their size on crappy little skis, and when they’re ripping down the mountain, I’m going the same speed on tiny little skis in a full tuck. Oh my God, it was nutty. I’d get to the bottom and say, ‘That was pure luck that I didn’t just cartwheel into the woods.’
“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.
“I define my own versions of success. And it has nothing to do with what everybody else says. That’s one of the major issues with me that confuses everybody. Because I’m good at sports, people think I like to win. But my winning is a byproduct of the pursuit to find out what I’m capable of.
“I don’t ever get pissed off when I lose. The only time I get mad is when I know I didn’t do everything I could have. A lot of times, that happens even when I win. For me, a win if I don’t perform my best, if I don’t hammer the focus in, doesn’t mean s—.
“Americans seem to have the belief that if you’re not going to win a medal at the Olympics, why go? That’s the most backward idea I can think of. That’s why I had such an issue with all the criticism this last year. Think of the effect on the young kids. It’s a really bad message. Whether or not you’re good at something, or whether or not you can meet someone else’s version of success, has nothing to do with whether or not you should participate.
“I was so focused in Torino. I was intense. Those races were awesome that way. I didn’t do well, but I did everything I could do to do well. My focus wasn’t to beat everybody else. If it had been, I would have changed my tactics. I was super-aggressive and I know that if I’m too aggressive in super-G and downhill, I put myself in really difficult situations. If I had just wanted to win, I could ski more like at 85 percent — that allows me to have more control, but it doesn’t feel as fun to me. In the Olympics, I want to feel like I’m doing everything I can to make sure my effort was 100 percent. If you lose while giving 100 percent, you at least know that you did everything you could.”