Friday, February 19, 2010
Miller earns super-G silver; Svindal wins
WHISTLER, British Columbia -- Aksel Lund Svindal of Norway won the men's super-G title Friday, denying American Bode Miller his first Olympic gold medal.
Svindal won in 1 minute, 30.34 seconds on a tough, icy track that gave many racers problems staying within the painted blue lines guiding the course. Miller was second, trailing by 0.28 second, and Andrew Weibrecht of Lake Placid, N.Y., was 0.31 behind Svindal in third.
Bode Miller trailed Aksel Lund Svindal's winning run by 0.28 seconds Friday, and fellow American Andrew Weibrecht took bronze, 0.31 back.
The U.S. now has six Alpine medals in four races, its most ever, with six events remaining. Norway, with two, is the only other country with more than one medal.
Americans won five Alpine medals -- three golds and two silvers -- at the 1984 Sarajevo Games, when the program included only six races.
Svindal took silver in the downhill won by Switzerland's Didier Defago on Monday, leaving Miller with the bronze.
The 27-year-old Svindal peaked at the right time after a difficult season trying to defend his World Cup overall title. He had a left knee injury in October and was sidelined by a strength-sapping bout of flu over the New Year's holiday.
"It's been a lot of work getting to where I need to be for winning races," Svindal said.
He said his downhill result took the pressure off.
"I felt like it was the last thing I was thinking at the start gate -- 'You already have a silver and it can only get better, so enjoy this and give it all you have. Don't hold anything back."
Svindal threw both arms in the air as he crossed the finish line and held the pose for the crowd. He then stretched his arms out wide and, pushing his palms upward, urged the crowd to cheer louder.
Miller looked on clapping and smiling broadly from the leader's standing spot, in front of television cameras beside the finish area.
He said he got his medal by skiing aggressively.
"You had to be willing to risk everything. All of us -- Andrew, myself, Aksel -- had sections where we almost blew out, where we barely made it," he said. "When you're pushing that hard and you have that much desire to get to the finish, it's usually what separates those hundredths of a second."
Miller's fourth career Olympic medal -- in four different events -- makes him the most decorated American Alpine skier in history. He also got silvers in giant slalom and combined at the 2002 Salt Lake City Games.
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The 32-year-old Miller and 24-year-old Weibrecht became the first American men to get medals in the same Alpine event since twins Phil and Steve Mahre went 1-2 in slalom at Sarajevo. Americans Lindsey Vonn and Julia Mancuso were 1-2 in the women's downhill Wednesday.
It was the first elite-level podium finish for Weibrecht, who has never finished better than 10th in a World Cup race. That was in the downhill at Beaver Creek, Colo., in November 2007.
"I haven't ever come down leading a race," he said. He started third and "figured I would stay in there until 10 guys came down. But I kept staying in there."
Svindal, starting No. 19, eight places after Miller, trailed the American by 0.30 second at the first time split but made up the difference and had a 0.02 lead at the halfway point. He extended his lead along the bottom half of the course.
The big Norwegian was clocked at 114.8 kph (71.3 mph) at a speed check where Miller went through at 100.9 kph (62.7 mph).
Miller delivered an expert run that challenged racers' ability to be fast while showing technical skills to keep control through the turns.
"I skied the top almost as well as I could the first 30 seconds," he said. "I knew I needed to put big time on the guys on the top of the course and then hang on and make no errors on the bottom."
Even Weibrecht went wide early in his run and launched into the air at one jump, with his left ski high in the air before landing well.
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"I definitely let it go as much as I could today," said Weibrecht, who celebrated at the finish by beating his chest with his right fist. "Going into the bottom, I really hammered because I knew my mistakes would hold me back a little bit."
Svindal continued Norwegian dominance of a race that was added to the Olympic program at the 1988 Calgary Games. Norway's great Kjetil Andre Aamodt won it in 1992, 2002 and 2006 -- giving the Scandinavian nation a 4-for-7 record in the event's Olympic history.
The bumpy 2.08-kilometer (1.3-mile) track on the Dave Murray course was expected to favor those who competed in the downhill because there is no practice run before super-G races.
That was no help for 40-year-old Patrik Jaerbyn, who did race Monday but crashed out badly near the end of his super-G run and appeared knocked out cold.
The Swedish veteran hooked a gate and was turned in mid air before landing heavily on his back. He bounced on the icy surface before sliding to a stop by the side of the course.
Bloodied but able to move his hands, Jaerbyn was brought down the course by toboggan and taken to a hospital.
"It seems that he has a mild concussion and some amnesia from the fall, but there's no signs of injury to the spine," said Swedish team doctor Per Liljeholm.
Course workers tried to create a frozen, consistent racing surface by injecting some sections with water overnight. It made racers' skis chatter loudly on a crisp, clear day.
Alpine powerhouse Austria failed to place any of its four starters in the top 10 after failing to get a medal in the men's downhill.
The strong Swiss quartet did no better than Carlo Janka's eighth place, 0.49 back. Pre-race favorite Didier Cuche was 0.72 behind in 10th, and downhill winner Defago was 1.09 slower than Svindal in 15th.
Erik Guay of Canada was fifth, just as he was in the downhill, trailing Weibrecht by 0.03.
Guay's teammate Manuel Osborne-Paradis crashed out before halfway when tricked by the terrain. He shifted his weight skiing over a compression and was flipped off balance. The next racer, Italy's Christof Innerhofer, nearly wiped out at the same spot, but stayed upright and finished sixth, just 0.08 off a medal.p