ROSA KHUTOR, Russia – In advance of Sunday’s Olympic downhill, Bode Miller made something of a statement in Saturday’s final training run.
After first deciding to take it easy in the last training run, he decided he “wasn’t going to waste a chance to have fun on this course.” He posted the fastest time of 2:06.69 – 0.66 seconds better than World Cup downhill leader Aksel Lund Svindal of Norway. Miller had even his competitors acknowledging that he’d skied this rugged course better than anyone else this week.
With Miller finishing 1-6-1 in the three training runs, even Svindal admitted that Miller is the man to beat.
On Saturday, the other top finishers were Italy’s Peter Fill in third (2:07.09), his teammate Werner Heel in fourth (2:07.21) and Carlo Janka of Switzerland in fifth (2:07.45). For the U.S., behind Miller, Erik Fisher was 20th and Jared Goldberg 21st, but neither of them will be skiing in tomorrow’s race. Among the other U.S. starters in Sunday’s downhill, Marco Sullivan swerved off the course and barely avoided a trip into the nets, and Steven Nyman took some significant detours on the way down, having worked on some specific sections up top. Travis Ganong failed to finish.
Asked about his objective in Saturday’s training run, Miller said, “Not kill myself. That was primary. Secondary was fixing that mistake I made yesterday above the Bear jump.” And he felt he’d accomplished that.
“It was fun,” he said. “It’s one of those courses where I don’t think you’re safer by going easy. The key to this course is based on your athleticism and your ability to get on the front of your skis. If you try to go easy I think you’re more likely to end up getting hurt. I skied pretty aggressively. I just wasn’t working quite so much with aerodynamics; I was just standing a little taller and resting. It felt good on my legs, I wasn’t as tired. I took it easy on aerodynamics, but in the turns I was skiing aggressively.
“And I skied the course basically on the line that I was going to go on, the whole way. Tomorrow I’ll be skiing that same line, and I’ll be looking a little bit more for aerodynamics. But, again, this course, it’s so damned fast that you definitely don’t want to sacrifice edge pressure for a slightly better aerodynamic position. … This course has teeth everywhere.”
Canada’s top prospect for Sunday, Erik Guay, had a smooth run Saturday to land in eighth place despite still shaking off a tweaked knee from last month. Manuel Osborne-Paradis was 11th, Benjamin Thomsen 16th, and Jan Hudec and Pridy Morgan took the day off.
The final training day began inauspiciously with a bad fall by Slovenia’s Rok Perko wearing bib number 1, followed by a course hold. Marco Sullivan was next and he fared little better, losing control and veering off course, but eventually avoiding disaster.
“I think I was going probably about 60 right toward the B-net,” Sullivan said, “and you can blow through those pretty quick, so luckily I made that save.”
Sullivan said that the course was holding up well, even after three training runs. “It’s getting a little bit icier and a little bit faster each day. But you see the guys today, Bode skied it great, Aksel, Janka, the guys are skiing it really smooth and strong. Sometimes after so many training runs the course can get really hacked, but this one is staying in good condition and guys are going to be able to go 100 percent and really it’ll be the ability of the athlete that’s going to win it.”
The alpine competition thus far has taken place in front of completely empty stands. In the Rosa Khutor finish stadium on Saturday, there were fewer than 25 fans in a facility designed to hold 7,500. One group of five fans cheering on their hometown hero with a single cowbell was enough to drew the attention of everyone in the finish area.
For the men’s downhill tomorrow, one of the signature events of any Olympics, it should be a different story.
|Rank||Bib||FIS Code||Name||Year||Nation||Total Time||Diff.|
|2||18||421328||SVINDAL Aksel Lund||1982||NOR||2:06.75||+0.66|
|7||40||422139||KILDE Aleksander Aamodt||1992||NOR||2:07.66||+1.57|
|25||51||110324||VON APPEN Henrik||1994||CHI||2:12.16||+6.07|
|41||59||460071||ACHIRILOAIE Ioan Valeriu||1990||ROU||2:18.89||+12.80|
|42||39||491151||DE LA CUESTA Paul||1988||SPA||2:19.65||+13.56|
|Did not start 1st run|
|72||30149||SIMARI BIRKNER Cristian Javier||1980||ARG|
|71||30246||BIRKNER KETELHOHN Jorge F.||1990||ARG|
|66||192504||MERMILLOD BLONDIN Thomas||1984||FRA|
|Did not finish 1st run|