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Bode Miller sues Austrian ski supplier Head, eyes racing with other brand

Bode Miller competes with Head equipment during the Audi FIS Alpine Ski World Cup downhill training in January, 2015, in Wengen, Switzerland.

Alexis Boichard/Agence Zoom/Getty Images

Six-time Olympic medalist Bode Miller has sued ski manufacturer Head as he wants to resume World Cup racing with a different equipment supplier.

Miller ended his nearly 10-year-long partnership with the Austrian-based company in 2015 and signed an agreement not to wear a different ski brand in World Cup or world championship races for the following two years.

The American, who sat out last season, now plans to return to the World Cup on skis from New York-based brand Bomber, which he helped develop, and has asked the court to void his agreement with Head.

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In a statement on the company's Facebook page on Monday, Head CEO Johan Eliasch said he's "truly very disappointed to see that Bode has no intention to honour his word and that he intends to breach our agreement to that effect."

"We will take every action to enforce our rights against Bode," Eliasch said. "That said, Head would welcome Bode's return to World Cup racing, but it has to be on Head equipment."

A two-time overall champion, Miller has not competed on the World Cup circuit since March, 2014. A few months later, he underwent back surgery before taking part in the 2015 world championship in Beaver Creek, Colo., where he severed his hamstring tendon in a nasty crash during the opening super-G race.

Miller, who turns 39 next month, never formally retired but hinted several times he was not planning to return to competitive skiing.

In the federal lawsuit filed in Santa Ana, Calif., last week, Miller's attorneys said that "Bode realized that his viability and marketability as a professional ski racer were rapidly dwindling, and that he needed to explore the possibility of coming out of retirement so that he could obtain quality endorsements to protect his family's financial future."

They added that "Bode discussed his financial concerns with [Bomber principal Robert] Siegel, and, in particular, the two discussed the possibility that Bode would return to racing in the 2016/2017 World Cup and world championship season."

According to Miller's attorneys, "it is likely Bode's last real opportunity to competitively compete on the World Cup racing circuit and attract the lucrative endorsements needed to provide for his family."

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The World Cup season starts in Soelden, Austria, on Oct. 23, and the world championship takes place in St. Moritz, Switzerland, on Feb. 6-19, 2017.

Head race director Rainer Salzgeber told Austrian radio station ORF Vorarlberg that Miller initially didn't intend to race anymore but apparently changed his mind.

"Our contract ran through 2016, but in 2015 he wanted to terminate it early," Salzgeber said. "He signed an agreement he would not compete on different skis. That was not signed just for fun. He put his signature on it. Let's see what we can do."

Miller has been using Head skis, boots and bindings since 2006, a year before he broke away from the U.S. ski team to set up his own independent team. He returned to the American national team two years later.

The Easton, N.H.-born athlete who lives in Coto de Caza, Calif., earned gold in the super-combined event at the 2010 Vancouver Games and won five more Olympic medals, most recently super-G bronze at the 2014 Sochi Games.

A four-time world champion, Miller won 33 World Cup races and took the overall title in 2005 and again three years later.

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