WHISTLER, British Columbia - Bode Miller hates the Olympics. He rails about what he considers a misguided emphasis on medals and the rampant commercialism, along with "the corruption and the abuse and the money."
That's why he tuned out at the 2006 Turin Games - because "being the poster boy for that, when it's the absolute thing I despised the most in the world, was really draining on my inspiration, my level of passion."
But true to his contrarian streak, Miller also loves the Olympics. "It has all the best things in sports," he explained. "It has amazing energy and enthusiasm, passion, inspiration. It's what changes lives. In that sense, it's the pinnacle of what sports and camaraderie and all that stuff is."
That's why he is thriving at the 2010 Vancouver Games: "You really get the chills. You feel the crowd. You feel all the energy. You feel the expectation. You feel everything."
These Olympics have become Bode's Olympics. After seriously contemplating retirement last summer, the 32-year-old from Franconia, N.H., has won three medals in three races, including the first Olympic gold of his stellar career, with two more events to come, today's giant slalom and Saturday's slalom.
Miller is a favorite for today's race: He won a silver medal in this event at the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics, a gold at the 2003 world championships and the seasonlong World Cup GS title in 2004.
If he does put in yet another top three finish this week, Miller would be the first man to collect four Alpine medals at a single Olympics. As it is, his five career Olympic medals, including two silvers in 2002, are the most for a U.S. Alpine skier and tied for second-most by a man from any country.
Even as he insists medals don't matter - "I don't know why everyone always thinks I'm lying about that" - Miller does appreciate the significance of what could lie ahead.
"For me, the measure of a ski racer is really how versatile they are, how close to five events you can become proficient at or the best at," Miller said. "To do it at one Olympics . . . requires a lot of luck. It requires a lot of things. That's why no one's done it before. Not because they're not capable, but it just requires a lot of things to go your way . . . But I am in a good position to do it."
"Bode is Bode. If you tell him in the Olympics at Torino, 'Focus, and do your best,' I think sometimes he just does the opposite. Just for fun. Just because he doesn't like authority," said Liechtenstein's Marco Buechel, a World Cup veteran. "He would have had a great chance there. He did it his way, and it didn't work out. And I think he learned from that."
Miller has his reasons for why in 2006 he lived in his own RV, apart from the team, proudly partied into the wee hours, and managed to finish only two of five events, never better than fifth.
He also has his reasons for why, these days, he is sleeping in the same condo as the other Americans, pushing and being pushed during training runs on the slopes.
U.S. men's coach Sasha Rearick is thrilled to have him around. "Bode's role is to challenge [teammates], push the limits of what we can do," Rearick said. "He helps inspire me."