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Mellow Miller missing the old vibes

Bode Miller of the U.S. speeds down the course in the first training session for the men's alpine skiing downhill event during the 2014 Soch
Bode Miller of the U.S. speeds down the course in the first training session for the men's alpine skiing downhill event during the 2014 Soch

By Martyn Herman

ROSA KHUTOR, Russia (Reuters) - Alpine skiing's former wild man Bode Miller has a problem and he hopes to cure it in time for Sunday's Olympic downhill.

Few racers push the limits quite like Miller in a 17-year career that has made him America's most decorated male skier with his medals won on guts, adrenaline and a natural feel for snow acquired growing in New Hampshire's White Mountains.

His off-piste activities have often been as colorful as his maverick skiing style so it was strange listening to the 36-year-old describe himself as having "emotional arousal control" on Thursday just as his fifth Olympics got under way.

Miller blasted down Rosa Khutor's sun-kissed Olympic course to top the timesheets in the first training run but said the mellowing of his personality means he is not as revved up for this Games compared to previous ones.

"Not to take anything away from the Olympics but it just isn't the same after you've done as many time as I have," Miller told a U.S. team news conference on Thursday.

With the likes of Norway's Aksel Lund Svindal blocking his path to adding a downhill gold to the five other Olympic medals in his collection before he hangs up his racing boots, Miller knows he needs to be at full tilt at the weekend.

"Maybe perspective and age and stuff you see the advantages of being not just young but kind of maybe a little bit more naive about things and a little bit more excitable," he said.

"Having a kind of emotional arousal control can be a hindrance at times.

"When it's the Olympics and you really want to go way past your limits in certain circumstances so that you make sure you get everything you can, I think it can be a hindrance to be in your fifth Olympics with 400 odd World Cups behind you.

"I do get less nervous, I do get less excited."

Miller missed the 2012-13 World Cup season after surgery to his left knee and has also been bogged down in a bitter custody battle with his ex partner over his young son.

Many thought he might not return to challenge at major championships, but Miller has shown flashes of his best form, including a third place in Kitzbuehel last month where he was heartbroken not to have finally won the Austrian classic.

On Thursday, with wife Morgan Beck watching in the finish area, Miller put down an impressive marker for Sunday's race on a course that allows him to express his attacking style.

Miller, however, worries that on race day others may benefit from the extra burst of energy generated by the Olympics more than him, enough to make the crucial difference.

"I'm hoping that my focus and my intensity can carry me through," said Miller who was third in the downhill at the Vancouver Games four years ago as well as winning the super combined and coming second in super-G.

"I'm much more focused and I'm hoping that will kind of trade off and it works in my favor but I definitely can see from my perspective now some of my competitors in a way have an advantage over me," he said.

"I can't say I'm not excited, and hopefully the opening ceremony will stir some of those emotions but definitely I've kind of been here and done this."

Despite his bout of emotional arousal control, Miller should not be far away from the top of the podium if he avoids crashing out and still has a few days to get the Olympic juices flowing again.

"I was psyched to show up and see the course in such good shape," he said with a glint in his eye before offering some encouragement for his fans around the world.

"Any of the guys here and on the World Cup have a very special skill set but maybe mine are a little bit different to most. I have areas where I can beat them or am sneakier...or know I can do something that maybe hasn't been done before."

(Editing by Ed Osmond)

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