American skiers melt down in Sochi
ROSA KHUTOR, Russia -- Four years ago at the Vancouver Olympics, Ted Ligety regretted that he didn't push the envelope, that he left speed on the course and himself off the podium. He said that changed his approach -- and his career. Skiing much more aggressively, he has dominated the giant slalom and also won the super combined at the world championships last year.
Unfortunately, Ligety had the same regrets Friday in another disappointing performance here by the U.S. team. Despite being one of the favorites, Ligety finished 12th in the super combined, 2.19 seconds behind gold medalist Sandro Viletta of Switzerland.
"I could have gone way, way harder," said Ligety, who was the gold medalist in the combined at the 2006 Olympics. "With the snow the way it was and the course that was surprisingly easy, I had the ability to be really fast. Guys who weren't downhill skiers -- if they decide to throw down and didn't make huge mistakes, they were fast. I definitely skied way too conservatively.
"That's frustrating. I would have much rather blown out being on the line of too fast than what I did today."
After four alpine events, the U.S. has just one medal -- Julia Mancuso's bronze in the women's super combined. There wasn't even bronze for the men in the super combined, though. Bode Miller finished sixth, tops among the Americans. It was his ninth Olympic top 10, but he wasn't satisfied with his day, either. Which isn't surprising given that he won the gold medal in the super combined at Vancouver.
"It was pretty lousy," Miller said of his slalom run. "I thought the snow held up pretty well. But it was really challenging right at the start. You go out at a really steep pitch and there was a lot of difference in rhythm. One turn would be long and the next would be short.
"For me, I don't have enough confidence in slalom to pin it. I tried but just made a lot of little errors. You don't really see them on the big screen, but you feel it when you're skiing and you just feel your speed go."
Neither Miller nor Ligety put themselves in a good position in the downhill portion, which was held an hour earlier due to the warm temperatures on the course. Miller was 12th, 1.43 seconds out of first, while Ligety was 18th, nearly two seconds back. They didn't fare much better in the afternoon slalom.
"Ted and I were kind of guarding the front tips of the skis a little bit and you just feel your speed going," Miller said. "It's brutal. Halfway down, I knew I had to start taking risks. I just couldn't get a rhythm."
Miller said he should have skied a second and a half faster, which would have put him on the podium.
The warm weather has been having a negative effect on conditions -- 11 competitors, including America's Andrew Weibrecht -- missed gates or blew out and missed gates -- but neither skier blamed it Friday.
"I just respected the course too much," Ligety said. "The inspection of the snow was really bad. I thought it was going to get really bad. The one guy I watched on TV blew out and I knew Alex Pinturault blew out."
Thinking the course would ski differently proved costly. "It's the kind of thing where I didn't match my intensity with what it took to get a medal."
Picabo Street criticized the U.S. team for not attacking the course hard enough in the women's downhill. They will get a chance to attack it harder in Saturday's women's Super G, followed by the men's Super G on Sunday. Hopefully there will be no regrets about leaving speed on the course.