Bode Miller pumped his ski poles a few times after crossing the finish line, a trace of a grin beginning to appear.
Hardly an elaborate celebration after an aggressive slalom run that helped land him that elusive Olympic gold medal Sunday during the super-combined. But to his father, Woody, the tiny show of emotion conveyed everything.
Like the weight of the world had been lifted.
“He looks happier, like he’s enjoying himself,” his father said. “That’s what I like to see.”
Taking in the scene from the middle of a packed crowd, Woody Miller was waiting for a display just like that, to inform the father that, yes, his son was indeed enjoying this moment.
Then again, what’s not to enjoy?
Bode Miller now has three medals at these Winter Games and five for his career. The five Alpine medals tie him for the second-most by any man in Olympic history, behind the eight won by Kjetil Andre Aamodt of Norway.
And while Miller has long insisted that medals matter little to him, his father held a little different view of the situation. He thought his son was “hungry” for that elusive gold, almost burdened by it.
“There was something that was definitely on his shoulders,” said Woody Miller, who’s from Franconia, N.H. “I think it’s more like he’s enjoying himself. That’s always been key for him. He lost that.”
Consider it found again.
Woody Miller couldn’t find the words to describe his son’s final slalom run, saying only that he was really “ripping there” in the slalom. He knew his son nailed it by his expression crossing the finish line.
“He was pleased with his run,” Woody Miller said. “I could see that on his face.”
That sure wasn’t the case four years ago at the Turin Games. Touted as the star of those games, Bode Miller left empty-handed, drawing more attention for his social life than his skiing.
“I’m sure he was trying as hard as he could in every event, but he wasn’t experiencing the joy of racing,” Woody Miller said. “He is now.”
Hard not to.
There have been no expectations at this Olympics, and maybe that’s helped, his dad suggested.
“That’s something he has in common with me. I like to feel like I’m a dark horse,” said Woody Miller, who was at the medals ceremony Sunday night, snapping photos. “He likes to be a surprise.”
Besides gold, the 32-year-old Bode Miller also has won bronze in the downhill and silver in the super-G.
More important to him, though, is the way he’s skiing, not so much his place on the podium.
“I would’ve been proud of that skiing with a medal or not,” Miller said. “The three medals are kind of a distraction more than anything else, because it makes everyone think I’m proud of the races because I got the medals.”
His dad knows that’s not the case.
“Because he’s skiing the way he wants to ski and getting some results at the same time — that means a lot,” Woody Miller said. “When he’s on the race course, he’s in control. But that’s a tiny fraction of his life.”