KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia — Amid growing concerns that the U.S. ski team might have a horrible Winter Olympics and that its biggest star is a has-been, the old man of the mountain — 36-year-old Bode Miller — made one more classic stand.
Miller, who sat out all of last season recovering from knee surgery, hadn't won a race in more than two years and had bombed out in Sochi in the downhill and super-combined, placed unusual (for him) emphasis on the results of the men's super-G Sunday.
"If it's not the most important race of my life, it's right there with it," said Miller, who throughout his long career has emphasized skiing excellence and feel over results. "I had a lot to show today."
He showed it.
Miller, who grew up ripping around the mountains of New Hampshire on skis, roared down a mountain in south Russia with reckless abandon, nearly losing control, risking all, just barely keeping it together enough to make it to the finish line.
It was the kind of racing that had produced five Olympic medals, five world championship medals, 33 World Cup victories and two overall World Cup titles.
On Sunday, another bright, warm day at the Rosa Khutor alpine center, it produced a personal triumph and an important result for the U.S. team that had struggled in the Sochi games — a bronze medal, his sixth Olympic medal, a record for U.S. skiers.
He finished tied with Canada's Jan Hudec, who also got a bronze medal, and behind only gold medalist Kjetil Jansrud of Norway and U.S. teammate Andrew Weibrecht, whose shocking silver medal made it a two-medal day for the U.S. ski team.
"I put in a lot of work," Miller said. "This was a really hard year. It was a lot of effort coming back to get fit and get ready and just battle through what life throws at you sometimes. To come out and ski hard, it is almost therapeutic for me to be in these situations where I really have to test myself."
Miller won two medals at age 24 in Salt Lake City. At age 28 and a heavy favorite in multiple events in Torino, he was shut out of the medals, created one negative distraction after another with his late-night carousing in Sestriere and offered up a quote that haunted him: "I got to party and socialize at an Olympic level."
At age 32, he made headlines only on the race hill at the Vancouver Games, winning gold (super-combined), silver (super-G) and bronze (downhill).