Friday, December 4, 2009
Miller, Ligety fail to finish slalom
BEAVER CREEK, Colo. -- On pace to be the leader, Bode Miller stumbled and went sprawling into the snow.
In the midst of a fast run, Ted Ligety straddled a gate and was knocked off course.
Like that, a seemingly good day for the Americans turned sour.
Instead, it was the Swiss who stole the show as Carlo Janka won a World Cup super combined event Friday, with countryman Didier Defago taking second.
Janka had a total time of 2 minutes, 32.26 seconds for the downhill and slalom runs, nearly a half-second better than Defago. Natko Zrncic-Dim of Croatia took third.
Defago led after the downhill portion of the event, but the Americans remained in the thick of things with Andrew Weibrecht in fifth and Miller seventh.
And while Ligety was in 24th place after the downhill, he was heading into one of his better disciplines.
There would be no U.S. skier for the locals to cheer for on the podium on this day, though: Weibrecht turned in the top U.S. finish, 19th place.
"In the downhill, the three guys gave great effort," U.S. Ski Team men's coach Sasha Rearick said. "They skied tactically smart."
Then things fell apart in the slalom. Miller was cruising along -- eyeing a possible podium finish -- when he leaned too far forward and lost his balance, going face-first into the course.
"Bode's still working on his skiing," Rearick said. "He hasn't had a whole lot of volume so he's still getting it ... In general, he's making steps each day, he gave good effort today, so I'm proud of him."
Given the frigid weather conditions -- single digits at the start house -- and grippy nature of the snow, Miller elected to pull out skis that he hasn't used in a while for the downhill. He knew this pair could handle this type of snow.
After all, he used them when he won in Wengen, Switzerland, a few years back.
"The snow is perfectly smooth, it's just too grippy," Miller said after the downhill. "Your ski hooks up and releases, hooks up and releases, even though it's smooth. It just starts its own little chatter. It's unusual it happens on a race ski on a buff course like that. I switched to a ski that I knew wouldn't do that."
Although Miller felt strong churning down the mountain, he said he wants to increase his fitness level after getting a late start on the season. He said it would've helped toward the end of the downhill course.
"There's just a lot of fatigue that goes on, especially the way I ski," Miller said. "If I'm really aggressive, I'm so far on the back of the ski and these skis are specially designed for that. ... They're unbelievably fast if you ski them that way. I was sort of out of it today, and couldn't find the right position on them. My strength affected that -- if I was a little stronger I could do that better."
Janka has gotten off to a sizzling start this season, picking up his third podium finish. The 23-year-old also finished third in the downhill at Lake Louise and third in the giant slalom in Soelden.
His recent finish has him in the overall World Cup lead, 21 points ahead of fellow Swiss skier Didier Cuche.
Sure, it's early. But can he imagine winning an overall title?
"The season is long," Janka said. "We'll see. It's difficult to say at the moment."
Janka is in the process of regaining his strength after missing most of the summer with a virus that doctors couldn't identify. Most days, he said he felt like he had a "low battery." Even now, he still doesn't feel quite like himself.
That is, except on the slopes.
"Still good enough to win races," he said, smiling.
Before the event, he received a vote of confidence from teammate Daniel Albrecht, who won the super combined at Beaver Creek in 2007.
"He just wished me good luck for the races," Janka explained.
Albrecht has been sidelined since sustaining brain and lung injuries in a horrific crash last January in Kitzbuehel, Austria. He lost control in mid-air on the final jump and slammed to the slope on his back.
The 26-year-old Albrecht has said he wants to return to skiing, which would make an already deep Swiss team even deeper.
It's a close-knit squad, too, helping each other out.
"The spirit in our team is fantastic at the moment," Janka said. "It's great skiing here."