- Alpine Skiing
On eve of Sochi Olympic downhill, Bode Miller says 'bring it on'
KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia — Bode Miller’s first thought in the start house Saturday was that he was going to take it easy on this, the final day of training before Sunday’s Olympic downhill.
Then, being Bode, he thought, what the hell. He had an opportunity to express himself in the manner of a great artist at the top of his work.
Which is what he is, as we should all recognize.
Or, as Bode put it later, “It’s a pleasure for me to ski on this track. I would be angry with myself if I had wasted this opportunity to properly run on this track. It tests your ability to the maximum.”
With a run that veered toward brilliance and nonchalance — really, both — Miller threw down the gauntlet. He crossed in 2:06.09. Only one other guy, Norway’s Aksel Lund Svindal, was within a second. 66-hundredths back, at 2:06.75.
Embedded video_content_type: Bode fastest in third downhill training run
In ski racing, a second is an eternity. Asked about Miller’s effort, Norway’s Kjetil Jansrud responded, “There’s not much to say besides it was epic.”
Over this week’s three training runs, Miller finished 1-6-1. The course absolutely suits him. It is tailor-made for what he does, which is an athletic version of performance art.
“It is a f-ing real course,” Miller opined Saturday. “The whole middle you can see the glare ice reflection. But I just said, ‘F-ing bring it on.’ “
The wording was perhaps a little more delicate but U.S. racer Jackie Wiles, just 21, emerged Saturday to claim one of the starting slots in Wednesday’s women’s downhill. She has gotten increasingly stronger over her three runs — finishing 12th (1.62 back), 12th again (1.22 behind) and, on Saturday, fourth (.62 behind), seemingly racing with no fear.
“Sweet,” she said afterward. “Really fun run.”
Embedded owg_slideshow: Sochi Olympics: Third men's downhill training
During that fourth-place run, Wiles missed a gate. Even so, coaches obviously considered her hot streak.
Julia Mancuso, was eighth, 1.38 back. Mancuso and Stacey Cook will round out the U.S. team. Leanne Smith, who has been battling sinus problems and finished 22nd on Saturday, will not get a downhill start.
To be sure, training is training.
Training runs are not full-on, dead-bang racing. On the men’s track, for instance, Max Franz of Austria threw a mute grab off a jump — the kind of trick you might see in slopestyle — and said about it later, “Why not?”
Embedded video_content_type: Bode Miller outpaces competition
Switzerland’s Beat Feuz noted, “It’s definitely the third training run. Not all the skiers are going to their limit. We are changing and tinkering with our line. Personally, I wasn’t on the limit myself.”
At the same time, as Werner Heel of Italy said, “Obviously, when the race comes closer, everybody tries to be fast.”
Equally obviously, on this Olympic downhill course Bode Miller is fast.
It is always risky to predict anything in alpine racing. Mistake is always an edge away.
"If you're not 100-percent focused, this course can kill you," Miller said. "I don't think this is the type of course where you're safe going easy."
Indeed, 10 of the 55 guys failed Saturday to finish. Two of the first three wiped out, the first, Rok Perko of Slovenia, ending up with a bloody face. The second, American Marco Sullivan, almost crashed, too.
Embedded video_content_type: Perko has nasty crash in men's downhill training
Even Bode’s rivals, however, acknowledge that he appears poised here to do something special.
“I think I will have to beat Bode Miller,” Svindal said. “He is really fast and skis really well. What he is doing is really impressive, especially on the second half of the course.”
Asked who his main rival might be, Switzerland’s Carlo Janka said, “Definitely Bode Miller. He skis sensationally, especially in the top part. He is virtually unbeatable there and is a real talent.”
Jansrud: “He’ll be very dangerous tomorrow. He’s probably the biggest favorite.”
Here is why:
Miller is simply crushing the top part of the course.
Embedded owg_slideshow: Slovenia's Rok Perko bloodied in downhill training crash
At the first interval, for instance, he was timed Saturday in 24.84 seconds. The guy who raced that second-best, Italy’s Heel, did it in 25.29. That’s a differential of 45-hundredths of a second. That’s enormous.
Svindal hit that first split Saturday in 25.80. The race was just underway. But Miller already had almost a second on him. Essentially, it was already over.
Up top, Sullivan said, Miller has found the perfect lines: “He just finds the apex of the turn so cleanly. Some guys, when there are big turns like that, some guys will start the turn a little bit dirty, like slide it, then initiate the arc. Bode will go from start to finish, just build speed — it looks effortless. Even for us who do this every day, it’s like watching — you see guys who are in the zone, in the prime, whatever. I think he’s got that going on right now.”
Again, it’s not that Svindal — or anyone — can’t beat Miller on Sunday.
Embedded video_content_type: Bode Miller, Patrick Kueng superimposed run
But, more likely, the only person who can beat Bode is Bode.
“The idea,” Miller said of his art, “is to be unbeatable.” He added a moment later, “I’m going to be ready. I want to win.”
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