Bode Miller's Winter Games
That’s one of the major issues with me that confuses everybody. I define my own versions of success. The fact that I’m good at sports makes people think I like to win. The fact is, my version of success is to be able to objectively analyze myself and my effort and my focus, and know that I was doing everything I could do. The pursuit of your ability — the things that a lot of homeschooled kids care about — is a common thread.
People think that I want to win — or I pursue winning. But my winning is a byproduct of the pursuit to find out what I’m capable of, of always making sure that I give everything I’ve got, and that I focus, and that I analyze what needs to be done. Those are awesome challenges for me that don’t really have much to do with being competitive in itself.
One of the things that throws people off is that 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 shit.
That’s why the Olympics were different for me than for others. I was so focused. 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, maybe I would have changed my tactics a little bit.
There are some things that I know about myself for that sport — that if I’m too aggressive in super-G and downhill, I pinch all the time. But it’s way more fun for me, it feels like 100 percent, and I put myself in really difficult situations a lot. Where I blew out in the super-G and in the downhill, I pinched and had to make some great recoveries. Whereas if I had just wanted to win the race, I could ski more like at 85 percent and much more casual, relaxed. It allows me to be more fluid on the line, but it doesn’t feel as fun to me. It’s not like I’m racing.
I’ve recognized that in downhill, that’s the best way for me to be competitive. I didn’t do it, because in the Olympics, I wanted to feel like I was doing everything I could 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, gave it 100 percent effort, whereas if I back off and ski 80 percent and I lose, that just pisses me off.
I had a huge falling out with the guy at my local program in Franconia. I had to come over here and ski with a different coach. This is the same shit I was saying then. I was like, “Dude, I’m a kid. What do you think my goals are? Even if I win these races and make you look good, my goals aren’t to make you look good. My goals are: I want to have fun, I want to prepare myself to race World Cup when I’m old, I want to maximize my ability, but mostly, I just want to have fun, I want to be out racing, and I want to train. The drills you make me do, although they may make me a better racer right now, are not going to mean shit when I’m 25 and trying to win the Olympics and World Cup and whatever else I do. And they suck, they make me not have fun.”
I talked to the other kids on the team and they all thought the same. None of this shit is fun. You make us not have fun when we’re doing this. I was like, “I’m going to go do the other stuff, and when it comes time to race, I’ll race and you’ll see that I’m better than the kids in this area.
“It’s not hard for me to win the races right now. When you see me race, look at the shit I’m doing and tell me if I need to do these drills to meet my own goals. Your job, as a coach, is to help me meet my own goals, not help me reach your goals.” That is almost to the word the exact conversation we had. And he was like, “This is bullshit.” And I was like, “You don’t deserve to be a coach of young kids, because you’re not on point. The shit you’re coming up with is not good.” He was not receptive to that at all.
He focused on exact body positions. I mean, it’s not a judged sport; people don’t care about what position your body is in — you just have to get to the finish as fast as you can.
Somewhere around 11 or 12, you start encountering people who try to tell you what success is, as opposed to doing it yourself. And you either push against it or you figure out a way to manipulate through it or you just quit. It happens to kids all the time. Think of all the kids who aren’t good at sports, who don’t have the confidence to not believe that if you’re not good at something, you shouldn’t be doing it. That’s the belief that a lot of America has.
Same with the Olympics. 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 effect on the young kids. It’s really bad. 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.
A big part of why I was much better than everybody at a young age is because I grew up skiing with adults. And none of the adults tried to teach me; most of the time they were trying to ditch me. They were like, “Who’s this kid that keeps following us?” I had no one else to ski with, so I’d just burn ass after these guys and they were making as fast of runs as they could. They were the local bombers on Cannon Mountain, and the mountain was ours — empty.
I’d get on the same tram that they were on and they’d be like, “What the hell,” and they’d get off at the top and try to ditch me, but I had all my secret little runs I used to catch up to them. I’m one-eighth their size on crappy little skis, and when they’re ripping down Avalancher Folly’s, I’m going the same speed on tiny little skis in a full tuck. Oh, my God, it was nutty, really.
Growing up the way I grew up, if I went walking in the river on slippery rocks, I fell. And I had nobody to blame for it. When I got up, I’d take a hard look at what happened. I’d say, “All right, my balance wasn’t where it needed to be,” or, “I wasn’t paying attention.” I realized how quickly I was able to learn from that.