For a mature Bode Miller, fifth trip to Olympics is all downhill

Free-spirited U.S. skier Bode Miller is now 36 and a father. But he still strikes fear in rivals and is a real threat to medal in Sochi.

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Bode Miller can't get his toddler to sit still. The 9-month-old boy is squirming around the hotel room as if he's ready to jump in the start gate of the Sochi Olympic downhill.

If you tell the kid to do one thing, Bode explains, he does the opposite.

The kid is determined to have his own way.

"He's like a salmon," Miller said, "he wants to swim against the stream."

Right on cue, as if directed by Martin Scorsese, Miller's wife, Morgan, looks up and says what everyone is thinking:

"I wonder where he gets that from?"

Cut . . . print it.

It was interesting to sit in a Colorado hotel room last fall and witness the coming-of-middle-age comeuppance for ski racing's onetime bad boy.

It wasn't so long ago that Miller seemingly needed the dribble cup, and now he's 36 and changing diapers?

Bode is the grownup in the room. Yeah, right.

His life could be narrated in one of those old "March of Time" newsreel montages.

"Raised in New Hampshire by hippie parents, and maybe without potable water, young Bode rose from free-range impudence to become America's greatest male Alpine skiing icon!"

Miller was just named to his fifth Olympic team — can you believe it?

In 1998, still a teenage prodigy, he earned a surprise berth to the Nagano Olympics and posted a DNF in slalom and giant slalom as he took ski racing's temperature and bided his time.

In 2002, at Salt Lake, he jaw-dropped his way to two silver medals as he reminded people more of Evel Knievel than any accomplished ski racer.

In 2006, atop the Italian Alps at the Turin Games, he was the five-medal prospect who disastrously miscalculated the world's tolerance for large-scale precociousness when it wasn't backed by results.

Cognitively brilliant but brought up without electricity, or many other guiding lights, Miller decided he wasn't in Italy for us. He arrived first class on his astral plane and offered his own, ethereal ideas of the Olympic ideal.

He admitted to "skiing wasted," or at least hung over, and reminded the uninitiated that his mission was the quixotic pursuit of perfection.

When Miller partied all night but didn't produce any medals, though, he was billed "the undisputed buffoon" of the Turin Games and a "goofball on skis."

He soon left the U.S. ski team and went into the wilderness in search of whatever Bode Millers look for.

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