Bode Miller unsure about racing at world champs post-surgery
BEAVER CREEK, Colo. — At times, Bode Miller’s surgically repaired back makes him feel like he’s "balancing two pool balls on top of each other."
Not exactly a comforting feeling when he’s speeding down the mountain. Miller remains unsure if the herniated disk he had fixed nearly seven weeks ago will recover in time to allow him to race at the world championships in Beaver Creek, Colorado, next month.
At this point, the 37-year-old Miller is unsure when he races again. Simply depends on how quickly his back responds to treatment and training.
"But if it’s possible, I’m probably one of the people able to pull it off," said the skier from Franconia, New Hampshire, who’s captured six Olympic medals, two World Cup overall titles and had countless wipeouts with his go-for-broke approach. "Whether everything goes right, it’s a matter of luck and good fortune and being smart about it."
Miller’s running out of time, though, with world championships right around the corner. The first men’s race is the super-G on Feb. 4.
There have been plenty of encouraging signs, like when he freeskied in Park City, Utah, a few weeks ago and actually felt good.
"Took it real easy there, kind of worked into it," he said.
But then things like this give him pause for concern: On New Year’s Day, Miller was squeezing in some giant slalom training on the new women’s Raptor Course when he had to stop because of his back. And while he woke up sore, he went back out Friday and got in some super-G runs, skiing "hard and fast," he said.
"The disk is probably out of the woods for the most part, in terms of a real serious chance of me re-rupturing it," said Miller. "But if everything locks down, you can’t ski."
For the moment, Miller plans to keep training and be on hand for a downhill training session in Wengen, Switzerland, on Jan. 13. If his back responds favorably, he will race that weekend.
And should training not go well, Miller will postpone things a week, see where things stand in Kitzbuehel, Austria.
"If I don’t have a sense everything is basically full steam, I’m not going to run," Miller said. "I’m going to have to make a hard decision."
His worst-case scenario is arriving at Beaver Creek for worlds and seeing how he feels. It’s a tricky course he knows intimately, winning four of his 33 World Cup races at this venue.
Miller will leave the decision of whether he deserves a spot on the team up to the coaching staff. It’s a difficult choice, especially with skiers such as Steven Nyman and Travis Ganong already capturing World Cup events this season.
"I do have a good track record on this hill. They (coaches) have seen me come back from time away from snow and be able to ski really well with a minimal amount of training," Miller said. "At the same time, we have a strong team right now. They’d have an argument to say, `We’re going to put in the strongest team we have.’
"They could name me to the team, though, and do some training runs. If I’m winning the training runs, then I could move forward."
As for a possible return next season, Miller said he will cross that bridge at a later date.
"If my body feels good, maybe I keep skiing?" Miller said. "I’ve had a remarkable run and put my body through so much. …
"More likely, I would say if I can’t get it back in time for this, to go through another whole dry-land season, another whole time to get back to race World Cup again, it just seems like that’s a lot."