Andrew Weibrecht, Bode Miller share Olympic podium |

Andrew Weibrecht, Bode Miller share Olympic podium

When you look back at Bode Miller’s long career in alpine skiing, it might seem like Sunday’s bronze medal in the men’s super-G competition at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics might be at the bottom of his medal list.

After all, the 36-year-old from Franconia, N.H., has won six Olympic medals in his life, including a gold medal in the super combined at the 2010 Vancouver Games.

And he had to share the third spot on Sunday’s podium with Jan Hudec of Canada, who finished with an identical time of one minute, 18.67 seconds.

Heck, he wasn’t even the top American finisher after Andrew Weibrecht of Lake Placid, N.Y., took silver.

But this medal was about more than results for Miller – it was a symbol of everything he’s overcome in the past year. As he broke down into tears during an interview with NBC after crossing the finish line, it was clear just how much of a toll the April 2013 death of his younger brother, Chelone, his recovery from knee surgery and a custody battle over his young son had taken.

After the race, he tweeted, "Thanks for all the support, today was one of the most emotional days of my life. I miss my brother."

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At 36 years, 127 days, Miller is now the oldest alpine medalist in Olympic history. Shortly after the race, he told U.S. Ski Team representatives in Sochi exactly how much this medal meant to him.

"I’ve never been stuck on counting medals, but for me, I’ve put in a lot of work," he said. "This was a really hard year with a lot of effort coming back to get fit and get ready and just battle through everything life throws at you. To come out and ski hard – this is almost therapeutic for me to be in these situations where I really get to test myself. So I was happy to be on the right side of the hundredths. Some days medals don’t matter, and today was one of the ones where it does matter."

But Sunday was also about Weibrecht, who proved he is one of America’s best big-event skiers. Despite never having finished on a World Cup podium, Weibrecht won a bronze medal at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics in the super G, following that up with a silver medal in the super-G event in Sochi.

"It’s unbelievable," Weibrecht told U.S. Ski Team representatives in Sochi. "I came down and I knew I had skied well. I knew I had a good run. I came through the finish and I just sort of appreciated my run and I took a couple seconds and looked at the time. I saw second, looked away and then I looked again and I saw it and was like, ‘You’ve got to be kidding me!’ It’s been a rough couple years with all the injuries and everything else, but this makes up for it."

Weibrecht joins Miller, Phil Mahre and Tommy Moe as the only American men to have two or more alpine skiing Olympic medals. He told the U.S. Ski Team he never expected to be mentioned among those alpine legends.

"There have been times I’ve had to evaluate whether this is really what I want to do, even as recently as yesterday," he said in Sochi. "There are only so many times you can get kicked before you really feel it. I try not to focus on the results, but I really needed a result to remind me that I’m capable of this and that I belong here."

Though Weibrecht might question his own abilities, Miller, his teammate and podium partner, is one of his biggest fans.

"I’ve skied with Andrew a lot of times and he’s so much better than his results show on World Cup," Miller said to the U.S. Ski Team. "He’s one of the guys who could consistently win three events. He’s just an unbelievable talent. The one thing he loses out on is the intensity, and that’s why he does so well at the Olympics – because everyone focuses on him, he has tons of emotion and he lets his emotion out. He’s usually pretty reserved emotionally. I think here he really connects the emotion to it, and that’s why he gets such crazy performances out of himself."

Ted Ligety of Park City finished 14th in the super G, with Travis Ganong of Squaw Valley, Calif., ending up in 23rd.

The men will be back on the slopes on Wednesday, Feb. 19, when they’ll take to the Sochi giant slalom course.

— Compiled by Adam Spencer