Team USA Flag Bearer: The case for Bode Miller

The Sports NetworkJanuary 30, 2014 

(SportsNetwork.com) - As the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, approach, the last bit of news to come out of Team USA camp will be the announcement of the flag bearer for the opening ceremony. It might not sound like a big deal, but don't tell that to the athletes.

Past flag bearers include luge's Mark Grimmette (2010), Winter and Summer Olympian Chris Witty (2006), short track speed skater Amy Peterson (2002), cross country specialist Bill Koch (1992) and Cindy Nelson (1976), the last Alpine skiier to carry the flag.

Of the 231 Americans scheduled to compete in Sochi, one stands out among the rest - Alpine skier Bode Miller.

Miller, 36, will be making his fifth and most likely final appearance in the Winter Olympics. His five medals are the most by an American, including a gold medal in the Super Combined four years ago in Vancouver. He added a silver and a bronze in the super-G and downhill, respectively.

What made Miller's gold medal performance so remarkable, you would have to look at the beginning of the event. In the downhill portion, Miller was behind Aksel Lund Svindal of Norway by 0.76 seconds, with the slalom still to come. He had to pass some of the best skiers in the world on the way to the top of the leaderboard.

He also needed a break, and that came when Svindal crashed during the slalom. Breaks happen all the time to skiers, but Miller benefited this time.

Miller can boast about a resume that includes two World Cup championships (2005 and 2008), 33 victories, 76 podiums, 16 seasons on tour and five gold medals in the World Championships. Also, Miller is one of five men to win all five World Cup events (downhill, slalom, super-G, giant slalom and super combined). They are: Marc Girardelli of Luxembourg, Pirmin Zurbriggen of Switzerland, Kjetil Andre Aamodt of Norway and Gunther Mader of Austria.

Back in 2008, Miller and fellow American Lindsey Vonn both won their respective World Cup titles - the first time in 25 years Americans have swept the Championships.

Not everything has been a bed of roses for Miller. He had a reputation as a late-night partier and making wild comments in public, all while competing on the World Cup Circuit. That did not sit well with U.S. officials. So, in October 2007, he left the U.S. Ski Team and raced under a personally financed group for two seasons, which left his status for the 2010 Winter Olympics in doubt.

But cooler heads prevailed and Miller rejoined the U.S. Ski Team in October 2009.

Miller missed the 2013 season because of injuries, but he has come back in style and is ready to defend his super combined title in Sochi. This season, Miller has four top-10s, including a second (super-G) and a third (downhill) in Kitzbuehel, and he is seventh in the overall World Cup standings.

In the end, it should be Miller who leads the Americans into Fisht Olympic Stadium next Friday. No American athlete has meant more for his sport right now than Bode Miller.

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