When the Turin Olympics begin in February, one man sure to be in the spotlight is American Alpine skier Bode Miller. The 2005 World Cup overall and Giant Slalom champion, Miller won two silver medals at the 2002 Salt Lake City Games. Though his goal is to win Olympic gold, Miller would be satisfied with just doing his best.
Last season Bode Miller electrified ski fans with his performance on the World Cup circuit. A seven-time winner in the 2004-2005 season, Miller took the overall title and won the super giant slalom discipline title. Miller also captured gold medals in the downhill and super-G at the 2005 World Championships. It was the best Alpine ski performance by an American since Phil Mahre in 1983.
But for all his success, Miller says he does not feel pressured to win Olympic gold.
"You know, obviously in the U.S. people are willing to jump on board for the Olympics, and they don't really put any pressure on you for the World Cup," he said. "But the reality for me is, my main goals and my main challenges are on the World Cup every year. So I am not unused to the pressure, and in the last few years I have been one of the guys who they have lumped the pressure on every year and it does not seem to have any effect on me one way or the other."
Part of Bode Miller's ability to handle pressure comes from his upbringing. He was born at home in New Hampshire's White Mountains and lived in a self-style "hippie cabin" his father built with no electricity and no running water. He was educated at home until the fourth grade and says that he is most content with a simple lifestyle.
"I don't feel like I need hundreds of thousands of dollars to be happy," he said. "I think if I wanted to, I could go up in the woods and do my own thing and have a garden and go play in the river for right now. I could do that and be happy."
Miller has endorsement contracts with Nike, Sirius Satellite Radio and other sponsors, but says he thinks the Olympics have become too commercialized. The 28-year-old skier has recently co-authored his autobiography, Go Fast, Be Good, Have Fun, in part because he wants people to understand his motivations and not judge him by his public image.
"Part of the problem with being famous is that you are misunderstood a lot," he explained. "And a book is, obviously, a great opportunity to lay things out in your words so people can really understand it and can go back and forth on it and can actually see what you say. If they see an interview that they maybe misunderstand, they can go back and look in the book and see if they can figure it out."
Miller has qualified for the U.S. Olympic team based on his World Cup performances so far this season. But he says that he would be satisfied even if he missed the podium in Turin.
"You know if you just have success and win gold medals all the time, sometimes that can be a struggle too," he said. "But for sure if you don't [win] that represents a struggle, at least to other people it represents a struggle."
Even if he prefers simplicity, Bode Miller knows that many U.S. ski fans will have high expectations when he competes in Turin. However, Miller is sure to follow his own philosophy outlined in his autobiography, "Get a plan, stick to it, and trust your instincts almost anything is possible."