Winter Olympics: Asa Miller keeps expectations modest as competition approaches

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Feb 09 2022 03:16 PM

Asa Miller in training. POC photo.
Asa Miller in training. POC photo.

Asa Miller vies in the men's giant slalom of alpine skiing at the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics in four days, armed with modest improvements since his Games debut four years ago in Pyeongchang.

The 21-year-old keeps his goals humble, knowing that many of the athletes he will be up against are more experienced. Miller will be part of a field of 150 competitors who will compete on Sunday at 10 a.m. at the National Alpine Skiing Centre in Yanqing.

"I don't think I'm in contention to win gold," Miller readily acknowledged.

"But I'm certainly in a position to improve my performance," added the lone Filipino athlete in the Winter Games. "I want to be better, improve on my previous performance and give a proud representation of the Philippines."

Miller finished 70th in 2018, when he competed as a 17-year-old high schooler.

Anything can happen in the giant slalom where speed is as essential as skills in navigating the Ice River — the giant slalom course on the slope of Xiaohaituo Mountain.

Already, the Ice River has shown that it doesn't play favorites. Two-time gold medalist Mikaela Shiffrin of the United States crashed out of her first two events in disappointing fashion.

It took only five seconds for things to go awry on Wednesday in her first run of the two-leg slalom, about half as long as the American stayed on course in Monday's first run of the two-leg giant slalom.

"I've never been in this position before, and I don't know how to handle it. It feels like a really big letdown," an emotional Shiffrin said after her run.

Shiffrin won gold in slalom in Sochi 2014, and the giant slalom in Pyeongchang 2018.

Ben Nanasca was 42nd in giant slalom in the 1972 Sapporo Games and his finish stands as the best by a Filipino in skiing so far. 

Nanasca and Juan Cipriano were the first Filipinos and from Southeast Asia and a tropical country to compete in the Winter Olympics.

Favored in the giant slalom this weekend are two Swiss competitors: two-time world junior champion Marco Odermatt and two-time Olympic bronze medalist and world junior champion LoicMeillard. 

Miller's father, Kelly, has told his son to do his best in trying to surpass the challenges.

"It's a big challenge for sure, I mean you never say never," said Kelly. "We really need to train hard this week and ski the best he has ever had in his entire life probably."

"In Pyeongchang, there was someone who won the Super G," he also pointed out. "She never really won before but I don't want to put pressure on him [Asa]."

The elder Miller was referring to Ester Ledecka of Czech Republic who surprised everyone in the 2018 Olympics when she won the Super-G gold. 

Organizers have yet to release the start list for Sunday's men's giant slalom but Philippine Ski and Snowboard Federation president Jim Apelar confirmed Miller's entry by the International Ski Federation. 

Miller, whose American coach Will Gregorak is arriving on Thursday there, is also competing in men's slalom on February 16 starting at 10 a.m. also at the Ice River.