By Steve Keating
BEAVER CREEK, Colorado (Reuters) - American showman Bode Miller, one of the greatest and most controversial skiers of all-time, crashed out of the alpine ski world championship Super-G on Thursday, exiting in the attacking style that has become his trademark.
A shaken Miller was able to ski to the bottom of the hill where he was greeted by a thundering ovation from the packed grandstand, who just might have witnessed the final chapter in a remarkable career. He exited the hill and was taken to hospital with a gruesome gash cutting across his right calf.
Competing in his first race of the season after missing the start of the World Cup campaign following back surgery, Miller took a deep breath and pushed out of the start hut onto a sun-kissed Birds of Prey layout to loud cheers.
With his wife Morgan and two children looking on from the finish area, the 37-year-old American launched into one of his patented charges, leading by more than half second at the second interval when disaster struck.
As always, Miller raced on the edge searching for the most direct line possible to the finish but clipped a gate with his left arm as he roared into the section of the course known as the Abyss. He was twisted backwards, flying spread-eagled into the air before slamming violently onto the snow his skies exploded from his boots.
Miller tumbled down the hill before slowly coming to a stop and managed a small wave to the crowd.
While coaches rushed to Miller's side his wife looked on in horror while his daughter covered her eyes before he was helped up and skied down the hill despite an open wound.
"Bode was skiing outstanding, he was going for it absolutely sending it from top to bottom and putting down a run that inspired Americans, inspired the world," said U.S. team head coach Sasha Rearick.
"Unfortunately in the Abyss he caught his arm on the gate, the force spun him around in an instant and he took a nasty crash. A real nasty crash."
Asked if he thought Miller would race again at these championships Rearick was cautious but hopeful, "I hope so, we're waiting for evaluation".
Long a favorite performer on the White Circus, Miller has spent his career entertaining fans and bristling at authority often at odds with the U.S. ski team and the International ski Federation.
He broke away from the U.S. association and started his own team traveling to races in a recreational vehicle that became known as the Bode-mobile and once threatened to start his own race circuit.
But above all Miller was a ski racer, unorthodox and brilliant winning medals in all five alpine disciplines.
His resume includes six Olympic medals (one gold), five world championship medals (four gold), 33 World Cup wins and has twice been crowned overall World Cup champion.
(Editing by Patrick Johnston)