MILAN (AP) — Bode Miller will skip the upcoming downhill in Bormio and head back to the United States to let his sprained ankle heal and concentrate on his fitness.

Miller injured his ankle during a team volleyball game in Val d’Isere, France, on Dec. 12 and is still getting into shape after cutting last season short and skipping summer training while he considered retirement.

The Bormio race is scheduled for Dec. 29 and it is preceded by two days of downhill training.

“Bode will spend Christmas in the U.S. with his daughter while allowing his ankle to heal and focusing on a conditioning program,” U.S. Ski Team spokesman Doug Haney wrote in an e-mail to The Associated Press on Tuesday.

Miller won gold medals in both downhill and super-G at the 2005 world championships in Bormio and also won the World Cup downhill on the Stelvio course in 2007. The Stelvio, however, is considered one of the most physically demanding courses on the circuit, and the combination of Miller’s ankle problem and fitness level may have played a role in his decision.

“It gives him some time to do a conditioning block,” United States head coach Sasha Rearick said. “He was doing a lot of conditioning but once we get into all these races it’s hard to hold onto that.”

While he still hasn’t reached the podium this season, Miller has shown improved form lately, registering one fourth-place finish and two fifths this month – including one in the super-G in Val Gardena on Friday.

Miller placed ninth in the traditional downhill in Val Gardena on Saturday but was slowed by a headwind. He failed to qualify for the second run of the giant slalom in Alta Badia on Sunday, then sat out Monday’s slalom.

Rearick said Miller would be back in Europe for a slalom in Zagreb, Croatia, on Jan. 6, giving him another month of racing to prepare for the Feb. 12-28 Vancouver Olympics.

Steven Nyman, Scott Macartney, Marco Sullivan, Erik Fisher and Andrew Weibrecht will be the American starters in Bormio.

Miller was attending the World Alpine Rockfest at the U.S. team’s training base in Paganella on Tuesday, but it was unclear if he would ski. The New Hampshire native will likely head home after the exhibition event, which was organized in part by former U.S. head coach Phil McNichol.

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