KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia
This medal mattered to Bode Miller.
Not so much because, at 36, his bronze in Sunday’s super-G — behind winner Kjetil Jansrud and surprise runner-up Andrew Weibrecht — makes Miller the oldest Alpine medalist in Olympic history. Or even because he now owns six medals in all, the second-highest total for a male ski racer and tied for second among U.S. Winter Olympians in any sport.
The guy who for years and years insisted results don’t mean much to him declared he actually did care about this one. The last year has been a difficult one for Miller: the death of his younger brother, Chelone, in April 2013; the court fight over custody of his infant son; the work it took to come back from left knee surgery and return to the Alpine apex.
“It’s almost therapeutic for me to be in these situations, where I really had to test myself, so I was happy to have it be on the right side of the hundredths,” said Miller, who grew up in New Hampshire and is now based in California. “Some days ... medals don’t matter, and today was one of the ones where it does.”
He wiped away tears in the finish area after someone mentioned Chelone, a charismatic snowboarder who was 29 and hoping to make the U.S. team in Sochi when he died of what was believed to be a seizure.
“Everything felt pretty raw and pretty connected,” Miller said, “so it was a lot for me.”
Weibrecht couldn’t help but be moved by his own journey, calling Sunday “probably the most emotional day of ski racing that I’ve ever had.”
It also was an important day for the U.S. ski team. The Americans had managed to collect only one of the 15 medals awarded through the first five Alpine events of the Sochi Olympics before Weibrecht and Miller tripled their nation’s total in one fell swoop.
Through 28 starters Sunday, Miller and Jan Hudec of Canada were tied for second place, about a half-second slower than Jansrud’s run of 1 minute, 18.14 seconds. But then came the 29th racer, Weibrecht, who had come out of nowhere to win the super-G bronze behind Miller’s silver at the 2010 Olympics but since then has dealt with injury after injury, including to both shoulders and both ankles.
Even if clearly in a reflective mood, Miller couldn’t completely turn off his wry side when asked about trailing only the Alpine-record eight medals won by Norway’s Kjetil Andre Aamodt, and the U.S.-record eight Winter Olympic medals won by speedskater Apolo Anton Ohno.
“It means,” Miller said with a smile, that I’m old.”