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Miller snags a bronze in Super-G

Becomes oldest alpine skier to ever win an Olympic medal

by Joshua Spaulding
Sports Editor - Granite State News, Carroll County Independent, Meredith News, Gilford Steamer, Winnisquam Echo, Plymouth Record-Enterprise and Baysider

Bode Miller answers questions from reporters after the downhill portion of the super combined at Rosa Khutor Alpine Center on Friday, Feb. 14. Photo by Joshua Spaulding. (click for larger version)
February 19, 2014
SOCHI, Russia — Another race, another slight mistake and another finish out of medals for Bode Miller at the Sochi Winter Olympics. But that was followed by a performance for the record books.

After finishing out of medal contention on Friday, Feb. 14, in the super combined, Miller put together a stellar run in Sunday's Super-G, earning himself a bronze medal in the process, which makes him the oldest skier to ever win at alpine medal.

"I think the intensity was good today," Miller said after his bronze-medal run. "But the intensity's been good all the days and mistakes have cost me."

The men had better luck than the women in the Super-G, as there were fewer crashes and DNF's in the men's race, but it wasn't without its own brand of excitement.

Miller skied from bib 13 and put together an outstanding run, finishing in 1:18.67, propelling him to the lead, which until that point was held by Peter Fill of Italy. However, Kjetil Jansrud, skiing with bib 21, was able to slip ahead of Miller with a 1:18.14, knocking the American down to silver.

Then came Jan Hudec of Canada. He skied to the exact same time as Miller, putting them in a tie for second place just 22 skiers into the race.

The surprise of the day came from American Andrew Weibrecht, who has struggled since winning bronze in this event in the Vancouver Olympics four years ago. He didn't struggle on Sunday, putting together an aggressive run that many on the US team, including Miller, saw coming and skied to second place in 1:18.44, bumping Miller and Hudec into the third place tie, where they would finish.

"When Andrew got into the gate, I said there's a good chance he wins his race," Miller said.

The medals came at a big time for the US alpine ski team, as the squad has managed just one medal through the first week-plus of competition (Julia Mancuso's super combined bronze). And head men's alpine coach Sasha Rearick got what he expected from his squad.

"I expected they were going to throw down today," Rearick said. "I was pleased with his (Miller's) effort. I asked him to go out there and have fun skiing."

"I've put in a lot of work, it's been a bad year," Miller said. "But I've just battled through… to come out and ski hard … I was happy."

He pointed out that when conditions get too mushy, as has been the case in previous races throughout the Olympic Games, due to the warm temperatures in Sochi, he tends to push too hard.

"I don't think the skiing today matches up with how I've been skiing this year," he noted. "I feel like I'm skiing some of the best I have in my entire life."

Teammate Travis Ganong, who skied to 23rd in 1:20.02, praised his senior teammate.

"Bode, he was my idol growing up," Ganong said. "To see him back on the podium at the Olympics, this means so much to him."

Fellow US skier Ted Ligety finished in 14th in 1:19.48.

The Easton native put himself behind the eight-ball in the downhill portion of the super combined on Friday, Feb. 14, and despite a solid run of slalom, was unable to pick up a medal in the event, though he did lead the American contingent in attendance.

"We had to take maximum risks, but the mistakes I made, there's really no excuse," Miller said. "The mistake I made I made at the end of the Meadows (portion of the course) was a costly one."

The start of the downhill portion of the race was moved up by an hour until 10 a.m. local time to try and beat the sun that was predicted for the Rosa Khutor Alpine Park on Friday, but the sun was still shining brightly when the racers hit the course. The American contingent of racers all went in the middle of the pack, meaning the course had been eaten up by the time they hit the trail.

"Obviously the snow had gotten softer," Miller said. "But today I had to go more aggressive in there."

"Start position is not something you can worry about," said fellow Ligety. "You have to go out and ski hard."

Weibrecht, who skied between Ligety and Miller, noted that the team trains in all kinds of conditions, so the warm weather shouldn't be an issue.

"We train in all conditions," he said. "We have camps in Chile in the summer. In ski racing, the weather is never really the same two races in a row."

Despite not putting up middle of the pack results in the downhill portion, Miller and company were optimistic about their chances in the slalom. Though Miller admitted he and slalom have had a troubled relationship.

"Me and slalom have a tough relationship," he said. "I love it and I hate it. It's going to be a tough race. It's going to be full gas, there's no reason to hold back."

He also admitted that those type of situations are when he tends to ski his best.

"I'm happy where I am," Ligety said after his downhill. "It's not that much to make up, anything can happen."

Ligety, Jared Goldberg and Miller all stood in third position at one point during the slalom, but all three were eventually bumped off the medal podium and the United States was kept from medaling.

Jansrud came out of the downhill gate eighth and put up a time of 1:53.24 to take the lead and never let it go. Ligety skied to a time of 1:55.17, Weibrecht finished in 1:55.33 and Miller followed that up with a 1:54.67. Goldberg was the final skier in the downhill for the US and finished in 1:54.9.

In the slalom, Miller had the seventh best time overall in 51.93, giving him a combined time of 2:46.6 for sixth place. Sandro Viletta of Switzerland had the second best slalom time overall, which rose him to the top of the final charts in 2:45.2, with Ivica Kostelic of Croatia skiing to second in 2:45.54 and Christof Innerhofer of Italy in 2:45.67 for third. None of the three were in the top five after downhill. Jansrud finished fourth overall.

Goldberg was second among Americans in 2:47.29, with Ligety one spot behind in 12th in 2:47.39. Weibrecht didn't finish his slalom run.

Joshua Spaulding can be reached at 569-3126 or sportsgsn@salmonpress.com

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