After winning the super-G bronze and breaking his own record as the most decorated American Alpine skier in Olympic history, Bode Miller broke down in a post-race interview that has gone viral.
The 36-year-old Olympian, who had also just become his sport's oldest medal winner, told reporters that his late brother was on his mind and later said that he had experienced "one of the most emotional days of my life."
Miller's brother Chelone, known as "Chilly," died in April at the age of 29 from an apparent seizure.
"With my brother passing away, I really wanted to come back here and race the way he sends it," Miller said. "So this was a little different."
He added that it was a tough year and that he just wanted make himself "proud."
As Miller wiped away tears, NBC reporter Christin Cooper asked him to explain what it was he was doing at the start of the race when he could be seen looking up at the sky. "It just looks like you're talking to somebody. What's going on there?" Cooper asked, drawing some criticism for pushing the subject after Miller was already crying.
Overcome with emotion, he dropped his head. The reporter touched his arm, whispered "I'm sorry," and backed away, giving him space to walk away and isolate himself near a section of orange fencing where he crouched down until his wife arrived.
U.S. & World
Later, in an interview with E! Miller explained that his brother was a competitive snowboarder aiming for his own spot at in the Olympics. "He was coming into his own...it was a tough hit. For myself too. When you connect that emotion and doing it on honor of them, you deal with consequences. It was such a raw emotion, I collapsed."
In a December interview with The Associated Press, Miller said that he and his brother were very close. "There are parts of his life, or his attitude, that I just naturally integrate maybe more into my life, which affects the way I do everything — ski, training and everything else," he said.
Besides dealing with the loss of his brother, Miller has spent the last year in a custody dispute over an infant son. He was also coming back to skiing after a knee injury sidelined him for a season.
But there were positive developments as well. Miller recently married volleyball player Morgan Beck, who was at the finishline, hugging him and consoling him after he broke down.
In December the coach of the U.S. ski team, Sasha Rearick, credited Beck with bringing out a more mellow side of Miller.
"She's a great team player for both Bode and also the U.S. Ski Team," Rearick said. "A tremendous support for him."
Miller's emotional victory also drew a flood of support from fans on Twitter. Some offered kind words while others lashed out at NBC's Cooper for pushing the subject of his brother's death. Several TV critics also questioned NBC's coverage. Miller responded to both. "Thanks for all the support, today was one of the most emotional days of my life," he first tweeted. "I miss my brother."
Then, he took to Cooper's defense, asking fans, again via Twitter, to be "gentle" with her. "I appreciate everyone sticking up for me," he wrote. "...it was crazy emotional and not all her fault. #heatofthemoment"
He continued the message in a second tweet: "My emotions were very raw, she asked the questions that every interviewer would have. Pushing is part of it, she wasn't trying to cause pain."
In a follow-up interview on Today on Monday, Miller called Cooper a "sweetheart." He said he has known her a long time and doesn't "blame her at all."
After noting that he didn't think she "anticipated the reaction," Miller said that he felt "terrible she's taking the heat."
"It was just a lot of emotion for me," he said. "Sometimes the dam breaks."