This story originally aired on Jan. 8, 2006.
Who do you think is the top ranked American skiier in the world today? You probably wouldn't think it's Bode Miller, not after what happened to him at the Olympics this winter, but you'd be wrong.
Bode may not have made it to the podium in Torino, he may have been castigated in the press for partying too much, for skiing under the influence. But after all that, Bode went on to do awfully well the rest of the season. He finished third in the world, according to World Cup standings, and once again, the top American.
60 Minutes correspondent Bob Simon first reported his story about Bode before the Olympics and the controversy and the recovery. Simon explained why this rebel with a cause had become not only a sports but a culture hero, determined to forge a new trail outside the hallowed traditions of alpine skiing, both on the slopes and off.
Bode is exciting to watch because you never know whether he is going to make it. It's not a question of whether he'll win but whether he'll finish the race on his skis.
Bode Miller falls more than any other world champion. Last year, in the process of winning the World Cup, he fell or just didn't finish a third of his races. And many of the falls are just blood curdling. But when he begins to lose it, don't count him out. His recoveries can be beyond belief.
Watching Bode ski can also be a risky business. Even if he ends up on his feet or on his skis, sometimes a spectator does not.
Bode Miller is one of the few world class skiers to ski in all five disciplines, from the lightning speed of the downhill, that's the 90-mile an hour race, to the intricate ballet of the slalom. He was a contender to win a medal in any or all of those races at the Olympics. But the one person who didn't seem to care about medals was Bode Miller himself.
"I kind of take pride in the fact that I do things my own way," says Miller. "So whether somebody wants me to get five gold medals or whatever it is, I sort of feel like they're all other people's concerns and issues, not really mine."
Asked if he is detached from fans asking him to bring home the gold, Miller says, "I'm not very receptive to other people's ideas in that way, if that's an easy — if that's a gentle way to put it ... I don't really care what anybody else says."
What would Miller consider to be a perfect Olympics?
"If I could put down, you know, unbelievable performances, really inspirational performances that you tugged at people's hearts, where people got emotional and still not come away with any medals, I think that would be the ideal Olympics for me," Miller says.
But Miller's style is far from ideal, at least in the conventional sense. When Simon took skiing lessons, he was told to bend his knees, lean forward, keep his arms tucked in and hope for the best. But Miller leans backwards, his arms are all over the place and he skis on the very edge of control. On the edge.
In a famous and, at the same time, infamous downhill race, Miller lost one of his skis when he was going 80 mph, and continued down the course on one ski.
"I kind of had an idea that people would think it was pretty funny and that the coaches would probably be bummed out and, you know, mad like they always are," says Miller.
He was right about that: they were not amused.
"It could have been really devastating," says Phil McNichol, the head coach of the U.S. Ski Team.
McNichol says he feared Miller could have gotten hurt. "It would have been, 'Oh, Bode, what a fool.' Instead, you know, it was, 'Bode, what amazing, unbelievable, you know, superhero.' "