Miller ends ski season early for 3rd straight year

Posted March 09, 2011, at 3:24 p.m.
Last modified March 09, 2011, at 8:20 p.m.

ROME — Pulled in two directions, Bode Miller again opted for fatherhood over ski racing.

The U.S. Ski Team announced Wednesday that Miller has cut short his World Cup season for the third consecutive year, raising questions about whether he might retire.

The team told The Associated Press that the former two-time World Cup champion will skip the final two stops on this year’s circuit to spend time with daughter Neesyn Dacey in San Diego.

Miller, who attended Carrabassett Valley Ski Academy in Maine, won a full array of medals at last year’s Vancouver Olympics — a gold, a silver and a bronze — but struggled with motivation this season, failing to post a win.

“If the conditions are good and everything comes together then I’m pretty into it, but sometimes it’s hard to get really fired up for it,” Miller told the AP after failing to crack the top 10 in his four events at last month’s world championships in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany.

“I’m still always fired up and I always charge, but it’s not the same as it should be,” he said. “If you’re racing World Cup and you’re risking your health and everything you should be in it 100 percent. If it’s not, then you have to have the discipline and maturity to say when, because you probably shouldn’t be doing it. I’ve seen guys get hurt.”

The 33-year-old Miller jetted home to San Diego after worlds and already had skipped the last two World Cup stops, in Bansko, Bulgaria, and Kranjska Gora, Slovenia.

The U.S. team had been expecting him back this weekend in Kvitfjell, Norway, but Miller will miss the races there and next week at the World Cup finals in Lenzerheide, Switzerland.

Miller’s coaches have been urging him to race just the speed events, as many racers of his level do near the end of their careers, but the American has continued to compete in all disciplines.

Miller said he has discussed his options with retired racers Lasse Kjus, Kjetil Andre Aamodt and Bruno Kernen.

“I’ve thought about it. I’ve asked old champions, sought out their opinions about it,” Miller said. “But I don’t think it’s exactly the same. No American has come close to the number of races I’ve done, and it is certainly different for Americans. Those guys could easily get home and be more in their environment when they had days off. If they skipped a race or two they could go home right away. For me, it’s a long ways away.”

Miller said his daughter is “really on the other side of the planet” from most of his races in Europe.

Miller has competed in 380 World Cup races, as well as 15 races at four Olympics stretching back to the 1998 Nagano Games, and 28 races at seven world championships beginning in Vail, Colo., in 1999.

He is not considering coaching after retirement, at least not with the U.S. team.

“Not at this level,” he said. “I like working with kids. You can really have an impact on a younger skier just by showing him how to stay relaxed, just enjoy it and not get too stressed out, and point out the obvious things about skiing that little kids tend to forget about.”

Miller did television commentary for Eurosport during the worlds, but doesn’t see much of a future in that either.

“I doubt it,” he said. “It’s OK. I love talking about ski racing, it’s what I do, and as long as I have freedom to talk about whatever I want I don’t mind doing that but I don’t like jobs, either.”

Miller contemplated retiring before returning for the Olympics last season.

In his final race at the worlds last month, Miller finished just 12th in the giant slalom even though he had the fastest second run. U.S. teammate Ted Ligety won the race for his first world title.

Ligety didn’t see that as Miller’s final race.

“I have this feeling that Bode will keep going,” Ligety said. “He still likes it and I think he has enjoyment out of it and I think he still feels like he can be competitive. You never know with Bode obviously, but I think he still has some mileage left.”

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