YANQING, China – Asa Miller’s big day gets going on Sunday, February 13, when he competes in the men’s giant slalom of alpine skiing at the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics.
The venue – the steep Ice River course at the National Alpine Skiing Centre – awaits Miller and 149 other skiers who have been training on the slopes of Xiaohaituo Mountain in the last two weeks.
The races start with the first run at 10 am, and the second run at 1:45 pm.
“He (Miller) is very positive on the hill and looks confident. I think Asa is a dynamic, exciting skier, period. I think he’ll give us a good show,” said Miller’s American mentor Will Gregorak, a former World Cup ski campaigner for the US team.
“He’s executing a movement pattern really well right off the bat today, which is what you want to see as we get to race time. We’re all good.”
Among the top skiers to watch are Swiss two-time world junior champion Marco Odermatt of Switzerland, Manuel Feller Austria, Pyeongchang 2018 Olympic medalist Henrik Kristoffersen of Norway, two-time Olympic bronze medalist Alexis Pinturault of France, and 2021 World Championships silver winner Luca de Aliprandini of Italy.
Austrian Marcel Hirscher, the Olympic champion in 2018, retired in 2019.
Miller, 21, expressed readiness after his last training day on Saturday.
“I’m just going to do my best to stay relaxed because I ski my best when I am relaxed and confident,” he said. “It’s all about doing what I know best that day, not letting the pressure and stress get into my head.”
“Am I ready? yes I am,” said Miller whose modest goal is to improve on his 70th place finish in his Olympic debut in Pyeongchang.
Ben Nanasca, who alongside cousin Juan Cipriano, competed in alpine skiing in the Sapporo 1972 Games, set the Philippines’ best finish in the men’s giant slalom at 42nd.
After Nanasca and Cipriano, Michael Teruel placed 71st in giant slalom and 49th in slalom in Albertville in 1992.
Miller, who debuted in the Olympics at 17 years old, ranked 70th among 110 skiers in the 2018 Pyeongchang Games.
“I’ve watched some YouTube clips of Asa. He is in good form and skiing well. He’s trained hard and is very passionate about his sport,” said Nanasca, who’s now 68 and resides in Auckland, New Zealand.
Miller is also getting the support and motivation from the country’s Tokyo Olympic medalists led by weightlifting champion Hidilyn Diaz.
“Good luck Asa on your competition and I know you can do it,” Diaz said. “I know you prepared for this. We, the entire Filipinos, are praying for your success [on Sunday].”
Boxing silver medalists Carlo Paalam and Nesthy Petecio, and bronze winner Eumir Marcial also encouraged the 21-year-old Filipino-American to give his very best for flag and country.
Gregorak said the snow condition may change a bit in the next few days but it won’t affect Miller’s performance.
“It sounds like there’s going to be maybe a little bit of snow in the next few days, it’s a small amount of snow and the base is dense enough snow, but I don’t think it will do a significant change on the surface,” the 31-year-old Gregorak said.
“I’m anticipating that we’re going to be racing very similar to what we’re training on, so I don’t think there’ll be any major surprises on what the surface would be like,” he added.
Philippine delegation chef de mission Bones Floro, meanwhile, praised Miller’s work ethic at the Olympic Athletes Village.
“He is very professional when it comes to time and preparing his equipment and he has a plan in everything he does,” Floro said. “He really wants to give his best for our country.” – Rappler.com