For the team that brought eight medals homes from the 2010 Winter Games at Vancouver, the situation for the U.S. Ski Team halfway through the alpine events in the 2014 Sochi Games — with one bronze medal — looks, mathematically at least, a bit dismal.
“We probably expected a little more to be honest,” said U.S. Ski Team Alpine Director Patrick Riml on Saturday (Feb. 15), though he was far from exasperated. In fact, he was surprisingly upbeat.
“Starting off with men’s downhill, Bode (Miller)’s been skiing at a very high level as we saw last week at Kitzbuehel (third in downhill, second in super G) and he had a great training run, and then what happened on Sunday? He tried hard, he skied hard and he was right there at the split. Unfortunately it didn’t work out all the way to the bottom.” Miller finished the medal race in eighth.
“I’m very pleased with Travis Ganong,” Riml added quickly. “He did an unbelievable job when you see how he has progressed over the last couple of years.” Ganong, clearly a rising talent and future podium threat, finished fifth, just three tenths of a second outside of medal contention.
“The super combined I think was a surprise on the women’s side. It was an event where we didn’t expect a lot,” Riml said of the lone event so far to produce a medal for the Americans. “Julia (Mancuso) had a very impressive downhill and what she pulled off in slalom was very impressive so that was unexpected for us.”
There had been higher hopes for the women’s downhill, especially after Mancuso had been fastest during the speed leg of the combined. “Going into the women’s downhill, any Olympic race is different and very hard to predict,” Riml said. “Julia skied hard, but at the bottom where she won the race two days prior she couldn’t pull it off and make it to the podium.”
In the men’s combined Riml noted, “For whatever reason it was not our day in slalom. But I’m still pleased with the way they are skiing. Still, anything was possible going into the slalom.”
With the team’s precise medal count goal for the Games still a public mystery, Riml suggested that matching the feat from Vancouver wasn’t yet entirely out of reach, even if it is shaping up to be a long shot.
“We have some young guys coming in and performing at a very high level. It is difficult to achieve what we did at Vancouver. We had eight medals. Last year (at World Championships) we won five. We do have the athletes able to perform at a very high level. It’s a high number to achieve, but the Olympics aren’t over yet. We’re halfway through and we have some strong performers and a lot of good events coming up.”
In response to questioning, Riml agreed that conditions at Sochi (where temperatures have exceeded 50 degrees Fahrenheit some days), “are unusual. I will say that, everybody was talking about it. But conditions are not an excuse for me. They are the same for everybody.”
“Right now,” he said, “we need some luck on our side.”