KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia -- With the most important two minutes and six seconds of his day complete, Bode Miller sat in the finish area of the Rosa Khutor downhill course and tried to process where it all went wrong.
It was something he had learned long ago in his career: to not be defined by the time on a clock, to take a few minutes and absorb every inch of the task he had just completed, process what went right and what went wrong and move on before being bombarded with the opinions of everyone else. It is Miller who always controls his own emotions. No one else. And it was at this moment at the bottom of the hill -- with worldwide television cameras watching -- when the transformation from disappointment to acceptance was underway.
Miller began his day hopping out of bed a few minutes past 5 a.m., anticipating the opportunity that lay ahead. He had won two of the three downhill training sessions last week and eagerly waited for the race to begin. Some three hours before the sun would even rise, there was Miller, amped to the point that his wife, Morgan, said it seemed like he was already in the starting gate.
When the sun finally rose, the news outside was not good. A week of bluebird skiing conditions had given way to overcast skies and warmer temperatures, conditions that can challenge visibility. This is not ideal for a man who skis on the edge, a man who needs to see every bump and roll so he can steer through or around it.
At 11:45 a.m., Miller dropped in and the stadium was abuzz. He was the man many had come to see. After the first split time, Miller, who was the 15th skier to take the course, was ahead of leader Matthias Mayer by 0.27 seconds. Green flashed on the video board. By the next split, Miller's lead was 0.31 seconds.
But in the next section, Miller bumped into a gate. By the third split, his advantage dropped to 0.02. By the fourth, it was gone. He crossed the finish line in a time of 2:06.75, more than a half-second behind Mayer.
As he looked up at the video board and saw red, his head fell. He jammed his poles into the snow and leaned forward, staring at the ground in disbelief. He skied to the edge of the finish area and sat down, placing his head in his hands. After some 30 seconds, he propped himself up and made his way to the athlete's exit on the opposite end of the finish area. There, he just stopped.
Miller jammed his poles into the ground again and looked back up the hill, seemingly searching for answers. Where did he make a mistake? What could he have done differently? A trumpet quietly played in the distance. The only other sound was that of stunned silence. Eventually, Miller finished replaying the race in his head. He had his answer. He had done everything he could. Some 30 minutes later, his eyes covered by sunglasses with a blue USA ski cap pulled over his head, he explained.
"It's disappointing to not have a better result next to my name," said Miller, who finished eighth. "It's one of those days where it's hard to say where the time went. I skied really well. I was aggressive. I took a lot of risk. I made a couple small mistakes but not anything that would cost you a lot of time, and it's tough to just be missing it."