Rested Miller puts focus back on slopes
Bode Miller returned to the slopes after a golfing vacation looking relaxed. (AP Photo)
CHAMONIX, France -- Bode Miller returned to the slopes after a golfing vacation looking relaxed and good humored, but one of his sponsors still seemed a bit wary about controversy surrounding the American skiing star.
Miller, who is returning to the men's World Cup circuit after a nine-day absence, appeared focused and sharp yesterday, completing a fast and tactically sound training run ahead of tomorrow's downhill race. He had the 22d-best time in training.
He broke a streak of competing in 136 consecutive World Cup races when he skipped downhill and super giant slalom events last weekend in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany, to play golf in Dubai with his younger brother, Chelone.
''I played five days," Miller said. ''The rounds don't take all day. I was getting up pretty early, just testing and hanging out, going to the gym a little bit. It was nice."
At a pre-Olympic news conference later yesterday set up by one of Miller's sponsors, Italian pasta maker Barilla, the atmosphere was much less casual. Barilla's marketing agency picked 10 journalists to attend the strictly monitored publicity event, which had been organized earlier this season.
Invitations advised reporters to submit questions ahead of time so Barilla officials could ''best use the time available," and prohibited all discussions of doping or alcohol.
Journalists who attended the news conference said they were warned again at the start to not ask questions relating to doping or alcohol.
Miller, 28, has been the focus of intense scrutiny all season following various comments. The most recent brouhaha came when Miller suggested that Barry Bonds and Lance Armstrong took performance-enhancing drugs.
In October, Miller infuriated skiing officials by calling for liberalized drug testing. Then he made headlines by saying, ''If you ever tried to ski when you're wasted, it's not easy."
Michael Walchhofer of Austria posted the fastest time in yesterday's training session, finishing the 3,380-meter Piste Verte course in 1 minute 57.35 seconds. Christoph Gruber was second in 1:57.76, followed by Klaus Kroell in 1:57.90.
American Daron Rahlves, who can be knocked out of the World Cup downhill title chase if Walchhofer wins tomorrow's race, had the 39th-fastest time.