Sunday 26 January 2020

Bode's critics have to eat humble pie

Few American sportsmen have endured as much abuse from their national sports media as Bode Miller.

The great skier's sin was not so much his failure to deliver in the 2006 Winter Olympics when he went in as favourite to repeat his world championship victories in Super G and downhill the previous year and came away empty-handed, as his reaction to the disappointment.

Instead of the customary lachrymose American response with its invocation of the Star-Spangled Banner and Our Lord Jesus Christ, Miller said he'd still enjoyed Turin because he "got to party and socialise at an Olympic level."

What seemed an understandable attempt to play down a setback sent the American press into a frenzy of wrathful moralising. Miller, they said, was a disgrace and a bad role model, and for good measure they dug up an interview where he'd talked about skiing with drink on board to portray him as the greatest villain in American sport. The knife has been stuck in at regular intervals since.

Last week Miller came good, winning the combined title in Vancouver, adding silver in the Super G and bronze in the downhill. He didn't feel the need to apologise for his former self. There had been a lot of pressure on in 2006, he said, and there hadn't this time so things were easier for him.

Other sportsmen currently under the moral microscope might take consolation from the triumph of Bode Miller. Because, to paraphrase Oscar Wilde, there is no such thing as an immoral sportsman, sportsmen are good or bad at sport, that is all.

Miller's gold also shows that it's dangerous to dismiss great athletes. They have the talent to come back and make you look a fool.

Kevin Myers take note.

Sunday Independent

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