KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia – Americans Bode Miller and Ted Ligety have some serious work to do Friday afternoon if they’re to fulfill their promise as medal hopefuls in the super combined.
With the sun once again baking down on the Rosa Khutor Alpine Center, Miller — the 2010 gold medalist in the discipline that combines one downhill run with one slalom run — placed 12th on a downhill course he now knows well, 1.43 seconds behind Norway’s Kjetil Jansrud, who was fastest in the downhill portion in 1 minute, 53.24 seconds.
Ligety, the gold medalist in the combined at the 2006 Olympics (when the event consisted of two slalom runs), was further back in 18th, 1.93 seconds behind Jansrud.
Ondrej Bank of the Czech Republic, a solid slalom skier, is second, just 0.14 seconds behind Jansrud, with downhill gold medalist Matthias Mayer of Switzerland third. Ivica Kostelic of Croatia, twice a silver medalist in combined and the 2010 silver medalist in slalom, looms in seventh, a second ahead of Ligety.
“My position’s OK,” Ligety said. “It’s not 100 percent ideal, but it’s still pretty good. I think two seconds isn’t much to make up on downhill skiers. A second’s a lot to make up on Ivica.”
The slalom run is scheduled for 6:30 a.m. EST.
Given the sun, and therefore the softening snow, the Americans drew lousy starting positions – Ligety 22nd, Andrew Weibrecht 23rd and Miller 24th. Jared Goldberg, the fourth American who started 28th, likened it to “water skiing.”
“Obviously, the snow got softer,” Miller said. “All those little ripples, guys are breaking off all the top of those, and they make all the bumps sharper. … Obviously, the middle and the bottom is soft. The sun is just cooking it up there.”
That said, Miller blamed himself for his middling run. He took one particularly poor turn – way wide, into especially soft snow – that slowed him down in a flat section he called “the meadows.” That hurt him the rest of the way down.
“The mistakes I made, there’s no excuse for those,” Miller said. “I know this course. I just kind of got suckered in. With a tough start position, I wanted to make absolutely as much as I could in the downhill. The mistake I made at the end of the meadows, that’s a costly one.”
At the Vancouver Games, Miller was seventh after the downhill portion of the combined, 0.76 seconds behind Norway’s Aksel Lund Svindal, yet skied the third-fastest slalom run to win gold. Now, he must hope for a similar performance, even though he rarely skis slalom these days.
“Me and slalom have a tough relationship,” Miller said. “I love it, and I hate it. It’s tough. It’s gonna be a tough race, because there’s no holding back up there. It’s gonna be full gas.
“I’m glad in a way because that’s when I ski my best slalom. There’s no reason to hold back. That’s how it was in 2010, too. I had a pretty rough downhill run and skied great in the slalom to win. It’s gonna take the same thing.”
Goldberg, in his first Olympics, is 15th after the downhill. Weibrecht, the 2010 bronze medalist in super-G, is 20th.
“We’ll see how it goes,” Ligety said. “I think anything could happen in the slalom. … There could be some big swings.”