Bode Miller was reduced to tears during an interview with NBC’s Christin Cooper following his bronze medal win in Sunday’s super-G. Miller became the oldest medalist in alpine skiing history with his run. But the medal at Sochi is different from every other medal in his 16-year Olympic career.
Miller’s brother, Chelone, wasn’t there. Chelone was 29 when he died in April, 2013, after an apparent seizure.
The emotions of the day overpowered Miller the second he crossed the finish line. He embraced his wife, burying his head in her arms. He fought back tears as Cooper and the NBC camera approached him, tightening its focus.
“This was a little different,” Miller began the interview. “With my brother passing away, I really wanted to come back here and race the way he sends it. So this was a little different.”
Cooper followed with three questions pressing Miller for his thoughts on his brother, the win, and everything that was flowing through him. On the third question, Miller collapsed into tears.
The visceral reaction from Twitter was Cooper bullied Miller, badgering and prying until he broke down. Miller didn’t entirely agree with that notion, later tweeting his thoughts on the interview.
“I’ve known Chris for a long time. She’s a sweetheart of a person,” Miller said on the Today show Monday. “I know she didn’t mean to push. I don’t think she realized what my reaction would be. … I don’t blame her at all. I feel terrible she is taking the heat for that. I don’t think there was any harm intended. There was just a lot of emotion for me.”
In his press conference Sunday, Miller addressed the emotional moment, dry-eyed and thoughtful.
“[Chelone] was at every Olympics I’ve been at. He came, my whole family came to Japan in 1998, he was there when I won my medals in Salt Lake (2002) and he was there just after (2006 Games in Torino),” he said about Chelone, who had suffered a traumatic brain injury in a motorcycle accident.
“He didn’t come to Torino because of his head injury. But he flew over right at the very end of it and I took him to Dubai for a week and a half. … We played golf together and tried to bond.”
Anyone who has ever lost someone they love knows it is impossible to anticipate the grief that follows. It can present itself at times when you least expect. When those emotions appear under pressure or stress, the impact can knock you off your feet.
Over the past two weeks, we’ve watched Olympians rise and fall with equal elation and despair. The moments after success and failure are raw. Years of training, sacrifice and preparation culminate in that one moment. Whether that moment is good or bad, the finality is real and so are the emotions.
NBC’s interview may have been the catalyst for Miller’s tears, but to cast blame or otherwise disparage the moment disrespects a man who just made Olympic history and the memory of his loved one. The man was honest in a moment that deserved honesty. The interview should be commended and not for anything NBC did.
Bode Miller lost his brother and then won an Olympic medal. He felt like crying, so he cried. Moments later, he let the world see his joy and pain. Miller didn’t hide behind cliches or one-liners. But the best anyone could do with the moment was point at NBC and cry shame.
Bode Miller handled himself like the Olympic legend he is and everyone missed it.
(Contributing: Kelly Whiteside from Sochi)