2014 Winter Olympics: Men's Downhill Favorites Bode Miller, Svindal Falter In Final

By Douglas Smith
Bode Miller Men's Downhill
Jack Gruber – USA TODAY Sports

The weather at the Winter Olympics in Sochi made for a slick and hard surface at Rosa Khutor Alpine Resort, proving too difficult for several world class skiers leading up to the final in men’s downhill. Bode Miller said that this track had elements called the big pan, the lake jump and Russian trampoline could kill. Still, Miller skied on the edge as he always does, pushing himself even further than he had when he set a track record in practice. This high-risk mentality killed Miller’s chances as he clattered gates on the way down the hill and watched his chance for a sixth Olympic medal slip away.

Miller had the best time in two of the three training sessions ahead of the final on Sunday. Other racers could see how precise and confident he was in the first three turns, even standing up in some areas of the course. He had more to give and that is what he did. The man formerly known as the bad boy was about to go risky and as he lost traction through the middle section of the course, his medal slipped away. He likes to take chances, but this one did not pay off. Miller would finish in eighth.

Youngster Matthias Mayer of Austria would take home gold just sixth-hundredths of a second ahead of Italian Christof Innerhofer. Mayer recorded the best time in the second training session. The bronze medal went to Kjetil Jansrud of Norway, who tore his ACL at the 2013 World Championships.

Miller was the 15th racer and had the benefit of two other Americans racing before him. Travis Ganong put in a good running, picking up more speed than anyone in the bottom of the course at that time. Despite landing his jumps further than he had hoped, Ganong held onto the bronze medal position until two racers after Miller. It was a surprise to him as his words after his run showed faith in his teammate to dominate the course.

It would be Miller’s biggest rival, Aksel Lund Svindal, that knocked Ganong from the medal stand. Svindal was just behind Miller in the training runs and mentioned he would need to beat him on the bottom part of the course. Unfortunately for the Norwegian, he did not emphasize the set up, digging a lower line out of Russian trampoline and exiting the slickest part of the course late. His speed took a hit heading to the next area called the big pan, and despite his frame giving him a force advantage, was never able to make up the gap. He too took a risk in the middle of the course, thinking he could make it all up through the bottom jump section.

In the end, the two favorites failed to execute what would be the most important part of the course, the Russian trampoline and the rest of the middle portion. Though they had different approaches, the failure occurred in the same section of Rosa Khutor. They were too confident that they could handle the iciest portion of the course and instead left deflated. In the end, they watched a young skier that had not even won a World Cup race at the top of the podium.

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