BEAVER CREEK, US - Bode Miller's season debut ended in misery Thursday after the six-time Olympic medallist underwent surgery for a severe leg injury following a terrifying crash the FIS Alpine World Championships.
The American ski star tore a right hamstring tendon and underwent surgery following the high-speed wipeout in the super-G race which kicked off the men's competition at the biennial championships.
"Feeling lucky since things could have been way worse," Miller wrote on Twitter.
Miller's flying wreck Thursday highlighted a bruising day on the Birds of Prey super-G course.
Some 15 skiers didn't finish the race at the Beaver Creek ski resort in Colorado.
World Cup super-G points leader Kjetil Jansrud was another casualty. He made it to the bottom but injured his shoulder in the process.
The 37-year-old Miller, who was competing for the first time since undergoing recent back surgery, slammed hard into a gate before tumbling backwards down the hill and catching his right leg on a sharp object.
"I was right there," said US ski team coach Sasha Rearick, who was watching the race from the side of the hill.
"It happened right in front of me and then he tumbled out of view.
"This one was horrific. The brutal nature of being spun around and tumbling backwards. Fortunately he was able to get up and ski away."
Miller had the fastest time over the first half among the early starters when his left arm slammed into a gate as he travelled at about 100 km/h, twisting him around and sending him spinning down like a top.
Both skis came flying off as Miller slid a long way down the icy track.
He was able to get up and coast down to the finish where he received a standing ovation in what may be his last appearance in the worlds.
Miller eventually walked off the course under his own steam before being transported to a hospital in nearby Vail.
"He hooked his left arm in a gate in the Abyss about two-thirds down the course. He skied down on his own power and was treated in the finish area for a cut on his lower right leg," the US team said in a news release.
Going for it
Rearick thinks one of Miller's loose skis ended up slicing him open.
"Bode was going for it. He had his hands in front of him and then that crash happened so quick.
"In order get a gash like that he must have rolled over onto a ski tumbling with him."
Miller is one of the most successful ski racers in US history. At 37 years and 115 days old, he was hoping to become the oldest gold medallist in an individual event at the World Championships.
The Norwegian star Jansrud also had a wild ride down the mountain but unlike Miller managed to tie for fourth. Austria's Hannes Reichelt took the gold to go with his World Cup super-G win two months ago on the same course.
Jansrud jammed his left shoulder into a gate and complained of pain after wards. He was also taken to Vail hospital for treatment.
"The shoulder appears to be OK, but he is in pain," the Norwegian team spokesman said.
The Norwegians are hoping Jansrud will be healthy enough to compete in the downhill.