Miller confounds the press by forever insisting that his goal is to ski passionately. "Unfortunately," he would say after Sunday's race, "I tend to get medals when I do that ... so people get confused." He skied one of the best slalom races of his life, third best among 34 qualifiers for the slalom leg. (Ligety was fastest and Will Brandenburg of the U.S. second.) "It was an amazing feeling to go out and ski that way," he said after the race. "I was skiing very free and going 100-percent full gas."
It was also a cathartic moment, bringing his career full circle. The young Miller was forever being told to mitigate his speed (and his passion) to lessen his chances of crashing. Here, caution was not an option because there was too much time to make up. "It's how I used to ski when I was little," he said. "It's how I skied when I first came onto the World Cup." And sure enough—unfortunately, he might say—Miller finished .33 in front of Croatia's Ivica Kostelic (Svindal didn't finish) and got a gold medal to go with his inspired run. That will probably confuse people terribly, as will Miller's expression shortly after he finished that the run was "something I'll be proud of for the rest of my life."
Says Carey, who was on the ski team at Carrabassett Valley Academy in Carrabassett Valley, Maine, when Miller arrived there in 1991, "He skied so well for all those years, hell, really in the shadows in America, because all people know about are gold medals in the Olympics. Now he's got a gold medal in the Olympics."
But now there will be history and there will be Miller's history. He has explained that while the 2006 Olympics smothered him with expectations, these Games freed him to perform. The difference is far greater in his mind than the rest of the world can grasp. After the second of Miller's three medals, his father, Woody, said, "He's been very happy and very relaxed."
The question was put to Bode: Are you happy, or is that too simple?
"Usually," said Miller, "the simplest answers are the most accurate in cases like this."
There's no disputing that Miller is the greatest ski racer in U.S. history, with Olympic medals to back up his World Cup wins. Yet it is far more appropriate that the biggest victory of his life came in the manner that measures his career: He just skied fast.