VAL GARDENA, Italy — If Bode Miller wants to return to ski racing this season as he approaches the age of 40, he’s going to have to show U.S. team coach Sasha Rearick that he’s still got the necessary speed.
“There’s always a chance with Bode, always. But at this point right now we’re not expecting a miracle return real quick,” Rearick told The Associated Press on Friday.
Still, Rearick would not rule out a return by Miller this season, saying the six-time Olympic medalist could “possibly” race in January.
Miller has won 33 World Cup races, but he has never won the famed Hahnenkamm downhill in Kitzbuehel, Austria, which is scheduled for Jan. 21.
Also Friday, a judge dismissed a lawsuit Miller had filed against ski manufacturer and his former sponsor Head. Miller ended his nearly 10-year partnership with Head in 2015 and signed an agreement not to use other skis in World Cup or world championship races for two years. He was attempting to get out of the remainder of the deal so that he could race on skis by New York-based Bomber that he helped develop.
While he has not raced since severing his right hamstring tendon in February 2015, Miller might be tempted to return in time for Kitzbuehel. That could enable him to qualify for the world championships in St. Moritz, Switzerland, in February.
The U.S. team can start only four skiers in each race at the worlds.
“He’s going to have to qualify for the world championships,” Rearick said. “He would have to show me he’s ready to play or qualify straight up by criteria.”
The 39-year-old Miller did not show much speed during training at Copper Mountain in Colorado last month, trailing several teammates.
“He was not in the mix in those four-five guys, and we were ahead of the Norwegians there,” Rearick said.
The training in Copper was on a 30-second track of about 800 yards, just a fraction of the distance of a full World Cup downhill or super-G.
Miller has not had any race training since Copper, according to Rearick, who added Miller will come to Europe to train next month and then be evaluated.
At the 2015 world championships in Beaver Creek, Colorado, Miller was leading the super-G after several intervals despite not having raced all season. Then he crashed.
“That was the perfect end to this career — green light, green light, green light and then crash,” Norwegian great Kjetil Andre Aamodt said, referring to Miller’s unpredictability.
Meanwhile, in Miller’s lawsuit against Head, U.S. District Judge David O. Carter in Santa Ana, California, ruled Friday that Miller had no personal jurisdiction to sue the Austria-based company in his court.
Miller and his attorneys had argued that new sponsorship was essential to his livelihood with little time in his career.
In a statement released Friday before the lawsuit was dismissed, Miller called Head holding him to the deal “nothing more than a case of corporate oppression against an individual ski racer and our startup ski company.”
“This is my last real chance to race competitively in the World Cup and world championship, and it is disappointing to me that Head is trying to block me from doing that,” Miller said.
Messages left for attorneys for both sides seeking comment on the dismissal were not immediately returned.
Head had been steadfast in holding Miller to the remainder of the deal.
The company’s racing director, Rainer Salzgeber, suggested Miller shouldn’t race again.
“It’s better when he doesn’t ski. That’s clear,” Salzgeber said in comments that came before the lawsuit was dismissed. “It would be nice for the crowd. But his level of skiing in Copper was not there where we want to see Bode.”
Meanwhile, Salzgeber suggested that Lindsey Vonn, who is still supplied by Head, could return from a broken arm in Cortina d’Ampezzo in late January.
“She will start skiing hopefully beginning of January,” Salzgeber said. “Cortina should be OK.”