WENGEN, Switzerland, Jan 16 (Reuters) - Hampered by lingering back problems, Bode Miller skied the Lauberhorn downhill course on Friday, but only as a forerunner with the American in no condition to compete at World Cup level.
“I’m trying to prepare. You’ve got to work with what you’ve got. I’m not healthy enough to race but I’m healthy enough to run this course,” the former world and Olympic champion told reporters after deciding not to start Sunday’s downhill in Wengen. Back problems kept the twice World Cup winner out of racing this season as he gears up for the world championships at home in Beaver Creek next month, probably his last major event at the age of 37.
“There’s always different challenges, there’s fitness and equipment and the others have thousands of hours of skiing by now and I have twenty or fifteen or so," Miller said.
“I have to be ready to pull the plug because if I’m not ready, I’m not going to risk severe injury because of one thing or another."
Even a simple training run in Wengen was grueling.
“It was tough but I was prepared for this," he said, "The last training I felt I had some possibilities but even though I felt like I wanted to race mentally, physically I think it would have been a mistake.
“My back is not ready to race the World Cup yet. Portions of this course are really easy and I’m still pushing my back to the limits of what it can endure. I’m definitely taking risks just being out here,” Miller said.
Although he has won two downhills in Wengen, the American has yet to win the season’s showcase event, the Hahnenkamm in Kitzbuehel next week.
“Kitzbuehel has always been a huge goal but we’re kind of taking it day by day. If I’m ready to race I’ll absolutely do it. But these are not gentle and easy hills. You can’t only go halfway. There’s no such thing as taking it easy there.
“It’s the classic of our tour but it’s going to be a last- minute decision there too.”
(Reporting by Manuele Mang, Writing by Francois Thomazeau, editing by Ed Osmond)