When Bode Miller shouted into the cameras, "Papa says hi!" after he won his first Olympic gold medal, the world did a double take.
After his spectacular disappointment in Torino, the world had written Bode off as a cautionary tale that illustrated how incredible talent can be easily squandered. But in February 2008, Bode's daughter, Neesyn Dacey (a.k.a. Dacey), was born -- and since then, his life has taken a radically different trajectory.
Vancouver has proven to be Bode's redemption. In Torino, he kept a clear distance from the rest of the U.S. Ski Team, a truly awkward situation since he was supposed to be the public face of the team. This time, he's staying in the Whistler condo with his teammates and training with them. On Sunday, he came from behind to win his first gold medal in the super combined. This followed a bronze in the downhill and a silver in the super-G, arguably making him America's greatest skier.
Now when Bode skis his way into history, rather than telling reporters, "I had a few beers" (as he did in Torino), he gives his little girl a shout-out.
When news broke a year ago that Bode had fathered a child with a woman he was no longer involved with, he sang his daughter's praises. "My sister has three kids, so I've spent a lot of time around children -- and I've always really liked them and wanted my own," Bode wrote on his blog. "It's cool because you think all babies are the same, but they aren't at all. They all have such different personalities. It's crazy. It's really fun to hang out with Dacey when she's this age."
"The mother is a good friend of mine who I was seeing a while ago," Bode wrote on his blog. "We are no longer together. We were kind of already doing our own thing when she found out she was pregnant. We are just really good friends trying to be good parents. I obviously would have liked it to be an ideal situation where everything is planned and perfect, but it seems like a lot of stuff doesn't work out that way. I'm happy the way it is."
And he seems happy, too. He sees his daughter regularly. Now, he misses events not because of hangovers, but to be with his little girl. He missed three World Cup events last February to be with her on her first birthday. He not only missed the events, he also flew across nine time zones to take her to Disneyland.
"Dacey was definitely a big factor in why I decided to take a break from the World Cup," he wrote on his blog. "It's tough being away. It's tough to stay focused and perform well when you are constantly feeling like you wish you were somewhere else."
His mother says he's changed, too. "I saw Bode's mother in the bank the other day, and she said the thing about Bode this time is that his mind is in a good place and I think it showed," Steve Heath, a shopkeeper in Bode's New Hampshire hometown told the New Hampshire Union Leader.
Even Dacey's other grandmother -- Johnson's mom -- sings his praises. "He's a wonderful, wonderful guy," Sylvia Johnson said. "I think that says it all. He's terrific. Everything's been so positive. He's been a great person to have in our family."
Bode looks calm and focused in the Games, despite injuries in both legs. When he won his gold, he said, "I have one leg that is injured, and one leg that is on my boat already."
Speaking of boats, Bode recently mused that he'd like to live in San Diego so he could be near his daughter. Rather than rent an apartment, he might live on a boat. (After all, this is Bode Miller we're talking about.) The playboy-turned-family man will always live life to his own tune.
|Ronda Kaysen is a freelance writer. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, BusinessWeek.com, Architectural Record, Huffington Post, The New York Observer, Babble.com and AM New York. She lives in New Jersey with her family. Follow her on Twitter.|