Published January 08, 2015
Bode Miller slumped over his skis soon after crossing the finish line, knowing without even a glance at the scoreboard that he didn't have a medal-worthy performance in the super-combined.
Ted Ligety did take a quick look at the board, confirming what he already knew — he had been way too tentative to be a contender in the race.
The last two Olympic super-combined champions finished sixth and 12th on a rather warm Friday, well back of winner Sandro Viletta of Switzerland in an event that combines a run of downhill and slalom.
That leaves the American squad with just one medal — Julia Mancuso's bronze in the super-combined — through four Alpine events. Hardly the start the team was envisioning, especially after they hauled in a team-record eight medals four years ago in Vancouver.
By this time in 2010, the U.S. already had six medals in hand, including downhill gold from Lindsey Vonn, who's not at these Olympics after having surgery on her knee.
The current team is well behind that pace. Then again, at these Olympics, pace has been something of an issue for U.S. skiers, especially in the spongy snow.
The squad was too conservative in the super-combined on Friday, letting the course dictate the tempo instead of the other way around.
"We skied defensive," U.S. men's coach Sasha Rearick said succinctly.
Perhaps a little puzzling, given that they had talked about not being so cautious. Ligety was in solid position for a possible medal after the downhill portion of the race, only to meander his way through the slalom. He regrets not charging.
"To put it simply, I choked for sure. That's disappointing," said Ligety, the Park City, Utah, native who won the super-combined at the 2006 Turin Games. "When you have the ability to ski way faster than what you did, that's a choke. ... That's definitely missing a layup in a basketball game."
Miller, of Franconia, N.H., felt as if he had let an opportunity slip away, too. He made a mistake in the downhill portion earlier in the day to put him in a tough spot for the slalom. He tried to make up ground, but the slalom setup wouldn't allow for that.
"The tactics were there and the skiing is there, but you can't make mistakes like I did," said the 36-year-old Miller, who won the super-combined in Vancouver, one of his three medals at the 2010 Winter Games. "I can't say I'm surprised to be off the podium with the mistakes I made, but I think the skiing could've landed me a medal today."
As for the other Americans, Jared Goldberg, of Holladay, Utah, wound up 11th with a solid performance, while Andrew Weibrecht, of Lake Placid, N.Y., failed to finish after crashing in the slalom.
"Hooked that gate and all of a sudden I was on my stomach," explained Weibrecht, who won a bronze in the super-G in Vancouver. "It all happened pretty quickly."
Pretty quick is how fast the Americans want to move on from this race. The women have a super-G race on Saturday, where Mancuso will be a medal favorite. Again, there's no Vonn, though, who earned a bronze in the event in Vancouver.
Miller & Co. take the course for the men's super-G on Sunday.
A big factor in the super-G just may be where the skiers start in the race, given the spring-like conditions.
"The snow is going to deteriorate when it's this hot," Weibrecht said. "Start position is going to dictate a lot of what's going to happen in races, unfortunately."