American alpine skier Bode Miller, 32, is a four-time world champion and two-time overall World Cup champion. Now he can finally call himself an Olympic champion after winning the gold medal Sunday in the men's combined event at Whistler Mountain.
Bode Miller can now stop listening to all the critics with regard to his Olympic performances. Not that he ever did.
Eight years ago, before the Salt Lake City Winter Games, there were high hopes that he would win multiple gold medals. But Miller disappointed many by winning only two silvers, in the giant slalom and the combined, which features one downhill run and one slalom run.
Expectations for Miller were even greater ahead of the 2006 Turin Olympics. After all, in 2005 he had won two alpine world championship gold medals in another Italian city, Bormio. Those came in the downhill and Super G (super giant slalom). He had also won the overall World Cup title that season and became only the second man ever to win at least one race in each of the four standard World Cup disciplines - slalom, giant slalom Super G and downhill.
Some believed Miller could perhaps win five gold medals, but he did far worse in Turin than the previous Olympics in Salt Lake City, winning no medals and a best finish of fifth in the downhill. He was sixth in the giant slalom, was disqualified in one race and he failed to complete his other two races because of missed gates.
And it got worse. He made things difficult for U.S. Olympic team officials with his partying and then shocking comments on network television about skiing drunk.
Bode Miller eventually left the U.S. Ski Team because he did not want to follow its structure, and went out on his own for two years. Then he nearly retired because he was tired of the grind and some nagging injuries.
However, U.S. Ski Team coach Sasha Rearick coaxed Miller back onto team before the start of this season.
With a Vancouver Olympics bronze medal in the downhill, a silver in the Super G, and now a gold in the combined, Miller is now being declared as one of the greatest ski racers ever.
"It feels awesome. I feel like I did just what I tried to do," he said.
Make no mistake, Bode Miller has always said it has never been about winning medals for him; it's always been about going out and skiing your hardest, skiing aggressively, even when skiing a bit conservatively might, in some instances, prove more fruitful.
"My proud moment and my feeling of accomplishment doesn't hinge on those things," he noted. "It hinges on the skiing that I put down. That's what means a lot to me right now. To do it this way at this point in my career in the Olympics, and in the super combined in particular, is just an unbelievable challenge, and for me to rise to that challenge felt really cool."
When Boded Miller was asked what the future might hold for him, he said he was unsure.
"I don't know. I feel pretty old," he explained. "I don't know what my plan is really. You know having already quit once, it seems like I sort of came back for a reason. I mean this was why. But it doesn't mean that I'm done. I think the reason was because I wanted to make sure I had the right motivation.
Miller added at the end of this season he will meet with U.S. Ski Team officials to figure out what level of support he will continue to receive and which direction he should go.
He made it clear his good results so far in Vancouver have given him a huge lift.
"When I race like I have been here, it really is amazing," he added. "It's just awesome. It's so fun to do and it's so challenging at a level that you just can't find anywhere else. So I'd feel pretty stupid to give that up if I could continue."
And Bode Miller is not yet finished at these Winter Olympics. There is still the giant slalom and slalom to come this week.