Bode Miller’s integrity: worth its weight in gold

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(At 36 years old, Bode Miller made history Monday after tying for super-G bronze)

The Good:

Bode Miller has always generated controversy for his full-throttle approach to life as well as his sport. He is legendary in skiing for his unorthodox approach to speeding through runs. Rather than waste time slowing down at certain points in a race to maintain control (like most of his competitors), Bode flies through the entire course. He’s well aware that he wouldn’t find himself on the injured list as often if he just let off the gas a bit, but he doesn’t care—he skis the way he wants.

Miller has also led a notably fast life. He’s been portrayed as everything from the typical bad-boy to an outspoken partier who went through coaches like candy. Bode has always unabashedly presented himself to the world raw and unfiltered. In 2006, NBC’s Bob Costa predicted that Miller would be “unceremoniously forgotten,”—but Bode wasn’t fazed. He continued to live (and ski) on his own terms.

After years of changing the face of his sport, Bode’s revolutionary approach to the sport garnered him a bronze medal at Sochi, and he became the oldest medalist in alpine history. Although he has grown older (and somewhat more reserved), his rebellious edge still shines through. When asked how he felt about being the oldest medal winner in his sport, he cleverly replied “I feel old.”

The Sad:

(Chelone Miller)

Although Bode has never been one to count his medals (he has six), this particular one did matter. It mattered because he was inspired to emulate the way his brother had raced. Miller’s brother, Chelone (Chilly), died early last year of an apparent seizure at the age of 29. Chelone had been training to compete in the Sochi Olympics with his brother—a goal he was projected to obtain due to his all-out style. In memory of his brother, Bode “…really wanted to come back here and race the way he sends it.”

The Ugly:

The passing of Miller’s brother, coupled with making alpine Olympic history (and getting a medal) made for an emotionally charged atmosphere. From the fans to Miller’s family, the myriad of feelings was undeniable. In what will likely go down as one of the most infamous post-performance interviews, Christin Cooper was the first to talk to Bode about his Olympic victory. In case you missed it, watch the exchange here.

The backlash that followed was instantaneous. Viewers took to Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube to voice their anger with the uncomfortable situation.

Controversy has chased Bode Miller throughout his professional career. This time, however, he was a victim of the circumstances, not the source. The internet-and-social-media-shaming of Christin Cooper spread like wildfire—so fast, in fact, that her Wiki page featured an edit the same day that the footage aired in the United States.

It is evident, even before the interview, that the whole experience made Miller very emotional. Nobody should blame Cooper for Bode’s feelings. What Cooper can (and should) take the blame for is pushing the issue of Bode’s brother’s death to the point of unacceptability. Christin had several opportunities to stop revisiting the sensitive subject—and instead chose to press further. Some would argue that it is a reporter’s job to push for information—which is fine in context. Pressing a Senator for information on his campaign is one thing—prompting a man to publically breakdown over the death of a loved one is another situation completely.

Miller did not throat punch Cooper (like I imagine I would have done) nor call her a variety of names; instead, he quietly broke down and skied away. In addition to all of the support that the interview itself garnered him, Bode got even more respect for maintaining his dignity throughout the ordeal. Admiration for Miller went through the roof when he took to Twitter and TV to defend Cooper, stating:

And so—Bode Miller wins. He wins the bronze and makes his country proud. He takes the high-road making his fans and loved ones proud. And all of this, I’d imagine, would make his brother absolutely proud.

Julia Randall is a proud supporter of Team USA.  When she’s not inhaling Nutella-covered Doritos, you can find her swimming laps and writing about sports.

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