Winter Olympics Sochi 2014

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Slimmer, More at Ease Bode Miller Ready for Sochi

Miller has always been something of a puzzle, a daring skier who does things his way

By PAT GRAHAM
|  Saturday, Dec 21, 2013  |  Updated 8:16 AM EDT
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Bode Miller, of the United States speeds down the hill on his way to take eight place during an alpine ski, men's ski World Cup super-G race, in Val Gardena, Italy, Friday, Dec. 20, 2013.

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A lot has changed for Bode Miller since the last Olympics. He got married, is dealing with a custody battle over an infant son from another relationship, mourned the death of his younger brother, had a significant knee injury that sidelined him for a season and shed 20 pounds to be sleeker on the slopes.

All of which may play a role into just what version of Miller we see in Sochi.

"If there are 30 pieces to a puzzle to your life," Miller said, "I definitely have more of those pieces in place and doing well now."

Miller has always been something of a puzzle, a daring skier who does things his way.

The world watched Breakout Bode at the 2002 Olympics, Party Bode in 2006 and Thriving Bode in 2010.

Recharged Bode in Russia? He is much thinner and that surgically repaired left knee no longer incessantly aches.

"People are doubting him," U.S. teammate Marco Sullivan said. "So I expect him to come out and combat those doubts with everything he's got."

Miller has never been one to hold back, winning 33 World Cup races, two overall titles and five Olympic medals by taking risks few others would. But sometimes what gets in his way is, well, himself. He readily acknowledges he skis more for the feel and the fun than for the medals or the glory.

"I've always tried to live my life in a way that I won't regret later," said the 36-year-old Miller, who's from Franconia, N.H. "It's one of my favorite qualities about myself, that I didn't choose — kind of been that way since I was young. I do everything as hard as I can and I don't leave a lot out there."

These days, he's a svelte 196 pounds, a weight he hasn't seen since he was a teenager. He's noticing a huge difference, too, especially on a balky knee that required microfracture surgery nearly two years ago and caused him to sit out all of last season.

"Being 20 pounds lighter, it takes a lot of stress off your body," said Miller, who feels more "aerodynamic and snappy" at this weight. "It's a lot less strain on my body, knees, hips, ankles, back, which is important at this age."

And at this age, Miller has certainly matured. He's not nearly as defiant or disengaged.

"Working with Bode has been an absolute dream this past year," U.S. men's coach Sasha Rearick said.

Obviously, that hasn't always been the case.

Soon after the 2006 Turin Games — when he made more headlines for his late-night partying than his skiing — Miller isolated himself from the squad and trained on his own. For two years, he traveled around the World Cup circuit in his motor home with his personal coaches, rather than stay with the squad in hotels.

He ended his self-imposed exile a few months before the 2010 Vancouver Games and went on to have his best Olympics yet — capturing gold in the super-combined, silver in the super-G and bronze in the downhill.

Since then, a mellower side of Miller has been on display, especially of late. For that, Rearick credits the influence of Miller's wife, pro volleyball player Morgan Beck.

"She's a great team player for both Bode and also the U.S. Ski Team," Rearick said. "A tremendous support for him."

Technically, Miller met his wife at one of her volleyball matches in 2012. Turns out, though, she actually had a random brush with him years earlier. She was a teenager attending the '02 Winter Games with her parents when loud music began blaring from the condo next door.

The racket was from Miller's place — he earned two silver medals at those Olympics — and her father was less than pleased.

Ten years later, Bode and Morgan married on his houseboat in San Diego with only a wedding officiant, a photographer and their cat in attendance.

"It's really, really rare to find someone who's so true to who they are and their roots," Morgan Miller said. "It's refreshing."

Bode Miller has been in the news lately not so much for his return to skiing but for his court dates with a former flame in a custody dispute. Last week, Miller and the boy's mother, Sara McKenna, agreed to share time with their young son, an arrangement that could allow Miller to take him to Sochi in February.

"I've always loved kids. Your own kid is something special," said Miller, who also has a young daughter from another relationship.

This has definitely been an emotional year for Miller. In April, his brother, Chelone, died of what was believed to be a seizure. A charismatic snowboarder, the 29-year-old Chelone Miller was hoping to make the snowboardcross team for Sochi.

"We were very close," Miller said. "There are parts of his life, or his attitude, that I just naturally integrate maybe more into my life, which affects the way I do everything — ski, training and everything else."

In a good place heading into Sochi?

"I think I am," Miller said. "There's always more stuff to do, there's always more challenges. But yeah, physically, I can't complain."

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