(Eds: Adds photos. With AP Photos.)By PAT GRAHAMAP Sports Writer
Bode Miller banged his way through the giant slalom course as only he can, scraping his knuckle in a fall and later bloodying his elbow after a collision with a gate.
As anyone paying attention to skiing over the past dozen or so years knows by now, the five-time Olympic medalist simply does not hold back – even in a training run while trying to get his surgically repaired left knee, the one that sidelined him last season, healthy in time for the Sochi Games. It still aches, but not as bad as, say, a decade ago.
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These days, the progress of that balky knee isn’t the only thing weighing on his mind.
Miller is involved in a very public custody case over his son – the 9-month-old child’s legal name is Samuel Bode after his father, but Miller calls him Nathaniel. The mother, Sara McKenna, with whom Miller had a brief relationship, currently has custody of the child in New York.
Another court hearing is set for Monday, after Miller’s races at Beaver Creek this weekend.
”I’d love him to be here,” Miller said in a recent interview with The Associated Press in Colorado. ”He’s got a great attitude, a great spirit. He loves to do stuff, loves being around me. It’s tough to think about him sitting in an apartment in New York.”
Miller worries that he’s been perceived by some as the bad guy in a back-and-forth that has received plenty of media attention and become a rallying point for women’s rights advocates.
”There’s none of this `trying to take a kid away from his mom.’ We tried to file for joint custody,” said Miller, who has a 5-year-old daughter from a previous relationship.
”It’s what every parent would do,” he added. ”We’re not trying to do anything crazy. We just have to go through the process.”
McKenna, a former Marine and firefighter, moved last winter from Miller’s home state of California to New York to go to Columbia University. The California court awarded temporary custody of the boy late in the summer to Miller; the New York court made him give the child to McKenna last week. Naved Amed, an attorney representing McKenna, declined to comment on the case to the AP on Wednesday.
When Miller talks about his son, he chuckles as he mentions the child’s ”determination to be stubborn and have his own way.”
Now where does he get that?
”He’s so much like Bode, it’s hard not to love him,” said Miller’s wife, Morgan, who’s a professional volleyball player. ”He’s a really, really incredible little person.”
With downhill training canceled Tuesday – and again Wednesday after a snowstorm rolled through the area – Miller slipped over to Copper Mountain to hone his giant slalom technique. While he trained, his wife sat in the warmth of the lodge, peering out to watch.
Once finished, Bode Miller ambled up in his ski boots, half-expecting his young son to teeter out with his wife’s help.
Another time, perhaps.
”For an infant who’s in child care a lot of the time to sit in New York, when his alternative is to be out here with us, where Morgan can have him at the bottom of the hill and I see him every run and then I hang out with him all day long and play and sled, it’s just, you know, aside from what I want, I would want something like that for anybody,” the 36-year-old Miller said.
As that drama unfolds, a newer, slimmer Miller is trying to get ready for the Sochi Games. Miller said his knee still occasionally gives him grief, especially after a grueling training session.
”But it doesn’t hurt more than it has the last 10 years,” he said. ”It’s nothing too new there.”
This pain, he can endure, though, after undergoing a microfracture surgery nearly two years ago that could have ended his career.
”Skiing is a tough sport,” said Miller, who finished 16th in a downhill race last weekend in Lake Louise, Alberta. ”It doesn’t really give you a lot back sometimes.”
Still, most days he’s actually relishing the process of getting back up to speed.
”It’s frustrating to make the same stupid mistakes that I’ve made before now again, because I don’t have the time for it,” Miller said. ”But it’s been good. It’s gone well.
”I mean, there’s always more stuff to do, there’s always more challenges. But yeah, physically, I can’t complain.”