KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia (AP) — Lowering his head, then crouching in a
corner, Bode Miller lingered in the finish area after his
slower-than-expected Olympic downhill run, contemplating where things
might have gone wrong.
Most everyone, Miller included, thought he was the man to beat entering Sunday's race.
Most everyone, the 36-year-old American included, thought he had a
realistic shot at becoming the oldest Alpine gold medalist in Winter
Didn't even come close. Failing to produce the sort of near-perfect
performance he came up with in practice, Miller finished eighth in the
downhill, more than a half-second slower than champion Matthias Mayer of
‘‘This can be a tough one to swallow today, having
skied so well in the training runs, and then come in and be way out of
the medals,'' said Miller, who was born in New Hampshire and now is
based in California.
‘‘But I think I skied really well, honestly. I was
super-aggressive,'' he added. ‘‘The conditions didn't favor me today,
but I think, all things considered, I skied really well.''
Not nearly well enough. Still, Miller only would concede that he made
‘‘a few little mistakes the whole way down, but nothing that really
should have cost me much time.''
He had the fastest times on two of the three training days, when the
sky was blue and sunlight draped the snow. On Sunday, a cloud cover made
it tougher to see, and Miller pointed to that as a key factor.
‘‘I don't have as much tolerance for not being able to see the snow. I
need to know where the snow is,'' Miller explained. ‘‘The beginning of
the turn, middle of the turn, I need to know where the little bumps are,
because I'm right on the edge.''
In addition to the lower visibility, he said the snow in the middle
of the course was softer when he raced as the 15th starter than when
Mayer was the 11th man down the hill.
All week, he was by far the best racer at the top of the course,
building up advantages that allowed him to overcome being slower in the
When it mattered more, Miller was not nearly as clean at the outset,
and by the end, he was not in the tightest of tucks, giving away
Miller wasn't even the top American. Travis Ganong finished a surprising fifth, better than he's ever done in a World Cup race.
‘‘Ski racing is such a fickle sport. It's a matter of hundredths and
tenths of a second after skiing 2, 3 miles down a 3,000-vertical-foot
hill,'' Ganong said. ‘‘There are so many bumps, so many rolls, so many
tough little sections. There are so many variables. You can't have a
Miller definitely did not.
He's a two-time overall World Cup champion, and he already owns a
U.S.-record five Olympic Alpine medals, including three from Vancouver
After needing left knee surgery two years ago, Miller sat out all of
last season with an eye to being fit for the Olympics. And he was not
shy about saying he really wanted to win Sunday.
‘‘This is the premier event,'' he said, ‘‘and it's something I've thought about quite a bit.''
U.S. men's head coach Sasha Rearick's take?
‘‘Bode wanted it too much,'' Rearick said.
There are more races to come at the Sochi Games, of course — the
downhill was the first of five events for the men — and Miller already
was thinking ahead.
He was asked what went through his mind in those quiet moments after he completed the course.
‘‘Going back through the run, seeing if I'd make changes, if I blew
it, if I did something stupid. In this case, I didn't,'' he said. ‘‘I
just had to steel myself for the rest.''
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