KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia (AP) — In a couple of days, after a few more races, Bode Miller will make it official.
The most decorated skier America has ever produced, and one of the most talented the sport has ever seen, will be done with the Olympics at age 36, after competing in five Winter Games and winning five medals — so far — but without the gold in the one discipline he wanted most.
Bode being Bode, getting him to admit either is a longshot.
After finishing eighth in the downhill, the first of five men's races here, Miller paused for a long time at the bottom of the course Sunday and stared back up the hill for a long time. Asked what he was thinking at that moment, he launched into one of those rambling answers that make it hard to know how much he believed and how much was said simply to get a rise out of his audience.
As someone with extensive experience interviewing Miller, who also happens to be one of the most entertaining and exasperating athletes I've ever run across, my translation follows his remarks in parentheses.
What Miller said: "I was just going through the run, seeing if there was anything that I would change or how I feel."
(Translation: "If I'd known I was going to finish eighth, I would have stayed in bed.")
Miller: "It's tough when you have to judge yourself, because the clock doesn't really seem to judge you fairly."
(Translation: "If there were style points in skiing, like figure skating or that goofy new slopestyle snowboard race, I'd have won every event I ever entered.")
Miller: "Just like I've said a million times, I'm not always so attached to the result. I would have loved to get a gold medal today or any medal, but I was making sure that I knew where I was at, before I had to go deal with everybody else telling me what they thought."
(Translation: "I wish you guys would just disappear.")
Frankly, what should have been a sweet story about the closing flourish by an aging skier to cap one of the great careers in Olympic Alpine history can't be told without asking "What if?"
Miller's talent has always been equal parts blessing and burden. In addition to the five Olympic medals, he won two overall World Cup titles and left rivals gaping at his margins of victory and how he recovered from mistakes that would have crashed almost anyone else.
Yet for someone who inspired so much awe in others, he should have won more.
At the 2002 Salt Lake City Games, Miller came in without expectations and exited with two silvers. By the time the Turin Games rolled around in 2006, he was considered a lock to medal in all five races, only to squander his best moves off the course and inside a disco. At the 2010 Vancouver Games, instead of partying like an Olympian, Miller finally skied like one, winning a medal in each color and pretending that he couldn't care less.