- Alpine Skiing
Bode Miller wins training, praises 'challenging' Rosa Khutor course
KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia — An Olympic downhill comes along once every four years. It is meant in every way to be a demanding test, physically and, equally, mentally.
The men’s downhill course here runs just over two miles, the women’s just under.
When they first encountered the setup here two years ago, Bode Miller was saying here Thursday, “that year it was our most challenging downhill,” and keep in mind the World Cup tour hits all the famous mountains you might want to name in the world.
After winning the first of three scheduled training runs in 2: 07.75, Miller said, “I would say this year it’s equal.”
He went on: “You know, it’s high speed. Really big turns. Challenging terrain. Really big swinging turns into big jumps. And a lot of different, sort of, sections. Things that challenge a much more technical skier. Things that challenge a better glider.”
He said a few moments later, “I’m really glad they didn’t dumb it down. It tends to be … they just keeping making courses easier and easier and taking away the really challenging sections. That makes it tougher and tougher for the guys who want to separate themselves. The field is so tight and so close together. It’s nice to see they left some real challenging ones.”
Embedded video_content_type: Bode Miller fastest in downhill training run
Miller crossed first Thursday even though, as he acknowledged, he could afford to be relatively casual toward the bottom of the race — in ski lingo, “up a bit taller.”
Nothing about ski racing is a given, especially at the Olympics. But that Miller could afford to be so casual — and still glide across in the No. 1 spot Thursday — is unquestionably a signal.
It means nothing to have been timed first across the line Thursday. and yet — that Bode crossed first while kind of just, you know, skiing down the hill is the kind of thing that will have gotten everyone’s attention.
He knows it, and so does everyone else.
In perhaps another intriguing sign, another American, Marco Sullivan, finished fourth Thursday, 51-hundredths back, even though he missed a couple gates.
Sullivan said, “It’s a good day because I got on the course. I had some really good feelings. Definitely wish I would have made all the gates. Tomorrow I will really focus on that section I missed. The times today aren’t really reflective — everyone’s got something different going on in their head. Obviously, it’s nice to be fast. For the guys who made all the gates. It’s more everyone is feeling it out.”
As an illustration of how crazy alpine racing is: the course is precisely 11466 feet … three-hundredths of a second translates to 2.7 feet.
Embedded owg_slideshow: Sochi Olympics: First men's downhill training
Aksel Lund Svindal of Norway, believed by many to be a gold-medal contender, tied Thursday for eighth, along with Max Franz of Austria. They were timed in 2:08.96, 1.21 back.
American Travis Ganong, an up-and-comer, was 3.28 back.
The men’s and women’s courses empty together into a combined finish area, men’s on the left, women’s on the right; women’s training was delayed while course officials shaved down a final jump that pours into that final straightaway. That action took place after a first few racers, including American Laurenne Ross had run; Ross and the others then started anew.
Mancuso is a big-game racer who has enjoyed considerable Olympic success in both Vancouver and Torino — three medals, one gold, the 2006 giant slalom. She said Thursday, “It’s always about being mentally there,” adding, “I am feeling like I can definitely leave it all on the hill.”
Embedded video_content_type: Sochi Men's downhill training: Skier's POV
After taking last year off because of a bum left knee, Miller has worked his 36-year-old self back into peak condition. He should have won the famed Hahnenkamm downhill in Kitzbuehel, Austria, two weeks ago but for one bobble high atop the course.
He said Thursday the left knee feels fine. The right knee, which he banged in a fall in a giant slalom in St. Mortitz — a little sore, he said, but nothing major.
The main thing in training runs, Miller said, is not “to do anything stupid.”
Asked if plans to do all three runs, Miller said, “We’ll see.”
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