By Mark Purdy
Tuesday, February 23rd, 2010 at 12:19 pm in Uncategorized.
All right, so I make the three-hour haul up to Whistler Mountain to see Bode Miller try and win his fourth medal of these Games and . . . in the first run of the Giants Slalom, he skiis off the course in the middle of the race and leaves town.
All right, not exactly. He skiied slowly sideways off the mountain and back to the condo where he and some US ski teammates were staying. But what this means is, he is now ineligible to ski in the second run this afternoon when the medals will be decided. I was at the bottom of the mountain just finishing up an interview with Gary Radnich on KNBR when I looked up at a giant television screen and saw it all happen. I had figured I didn’t need to be up there until this afternoon’s run because that was the money race and Miller wasn’t going to talk to the media until after that, anyway.
Oh, crap, I thought when I saw what had happened, and I hustled onto the chair lift up to the finish line. Not to worry. Miller had stopped briefly farther up the hill to talk briefly to a course worker but certainly hadn’t stopped to talk to any journalists (print or broadcast) on his way back to the condo. So I didn’t really miss anything except a closer look at him skiing off into the distance.
I’m always curious about why athletes do this kind of stuff . . . I never take it personally when they blow off the media because I get paid the same no matter what happens, but don’t athletes understand that writers and television journalists are basically the conduit from themselves to people who are interested in the athletes’ personalities? So by blowing off the media, they’re basically blowing off the public? (And not helping their chances for commercial endorsements, although I guess that’s their own business?)
I still plan to write a column about my day on the mountain . . . just not sure what form it will take . . . especially if the other USA skiier with a chance to medal in this event, Ted Ligety, comes through this afternoon. He’s in eighth place following the first run with a time of 1:17.87, which is 0.60 behind the leader, Carlo Janka of Switzerland. My ski-expert friends say that Ligety still has a 50-50 chance of winning some sort of medal because he usually picks up time on his second pass down the hill.
And who knows? Maybe good old Bode will come into the press tent afterward, join us for hot chocolate and tell us some funny ski jokes.
Not counting on it.
UPDATE AT 12:30: Full marks to Associated Press reporter Pat Graham, who apparently tracked down Miller at his condo (I don’t have the phone number). According to Miller, he missed a gate and decided to drop out because . . . well, here was Miller’s explanation: “I’m taking more risk than everyone else. That’s partly why I’m able to get medals. It looks easy when you make it. When you crash like today, it’s like, ‘Oh, huh?’ I did a good job today, too. I was right there. I was right on the edge.”
I assume when Miller said “crash” he was using it as a substitute word for “fail” because he did not really crash and wipe out. He just hooked a gate and got out of whack and then skiied off . . . and maybe he thought he was “on the edge,” but he decided to quit when he was more than a second off the leader’s pace.
I guess when you’re a world class athlete, you’ve got to rationalize to keep up your confidence. I don’t blame him for that. But he would have earned a lot of empathy if he had finished the run, then come through the interview area and said, “Hey, I tried hard but it didn’t work out today. I’ll ski the second run for fun and enjoy it.” Instead, he’ll be watching the second run on television. I don’t rule out that Miller just wants to save his legs for Saturday’s non-giant slalom race, his last attempt at a medal here. But it would be okay if he said that, too.
Anyway, on to the medal run in about 20 minutes. Good luck to USA’s Ligety.