Svindal and Miller get second straight medals; Weibrecht surprise bronze in super G
WHISTLER, CREEKSIDE - Five-time world champion medalist Aksel Lund Svindal isn't wasting anytime collecting a new stack of medals of the Olympic variety. The Norwegian who turns 28 in a week (26 Feb) defended his nation's Olympic super G title (set by Kjetil Andre Aamodt in 2002 and again in 2006) in Whistler on Friday, earning his second straight Olympic medal ... the gold.
"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 said ... and he didn't. He won by nearly three tenths of a second, the same margin of time that separated the very tight group of second through ninth finishers Friday.
Bode Miller, also earning his second straight medal, took the silver for a total of four Olympic medals in his career, the most ever by an American alpine skier. He took a hard spill in slalom training Thursday, but strapped on the same downhill skis that won him bronze in Monday's Olympic race and did what he always does ... unleash every drop of speed he can muster down the hill.
"I came out of the gate today absolutely crazy, no one could touch me," he said. "I think I was the only person on downhill skis. On a lot of gates I felt pinched in, I couldn't get my turns. Once the momentum has built from a medal, you ride that, and you want to experience the moment in a pure way and not just be on the podium. Andrew [Weibrecht] felt that too, he has not been as good as he was today for a long time."
Indeed, the American who has never scored better than 10th in a World Cup race (Beaver Creek downhill, 2007), appeared to be skiing with Bode-like tactics, i.e.: holding nothing back in his bronze-winning run on Friday.
"It was definitely a wild ride for me," said Weibrecht, 24. "I was giving it everything I had and expecting to make mistakes. I knew that if I was going that hard that I wouldn't ski it cleanly and that was all part of the plan ... to roll with the punches and deal with an ever-changing run. I'm proud of the way I skied."
The punches, as they do in super G, came fast and unexpectedly in a course set by Italian Giovanni Luca Rulfi. Fellow Italian Peter Fill was leading his run until he reached the final jump, wrenched his skis sideways to make it around the next gate and zigzagged wildly until he crashed through one of the ensuing gates and tumbled across the finish line.
"It was not so easy," Fill said of the last stretch of the course. "You come there fast, but also [blind] and it's not so easy to find the line. I risked a lot."
Several other racers were thrown wide around the snake-like Carousel section of the course and Swedish race Patrik Jaerbyn, who, at 40, is the oldest alpine skier at the Olympics, had a hideous crash hooking a gate over the jump going into the Slalom Start. He spun around backwards in mid-air and landed on his back. He was taken off the hill in a gurney, but according to coaches, is doing "OK."
Weibrecht, wearing bib No. 3, held the lead until Miller beat him by just 0.03 seconds.Then Svindal, wearing bib No. 19, fired ahead in 0.28 seconds and none of the later racers on the quickly warming and deteriorating course, could beat him ... not even the big guns.
World super G champion Didier Cuche, fresh off his SG win at Kitzbuehel, ended up 10th and Austrian World Cup SG leader Michael Walchhofer 21st. Olympic downhill winner Didier Defago was 15th and World Cup overall leader Benjamin Raich 14th.
Raich pointed out that Svindal, who ran No. 19 and had to deal with snow that was quickly softening in the bright Whistler sun, has the unique ability to accelerate in any kind of snow and weather.
"For him it's possible to be fast in every condition," Raich said. "He was fast in Are where it was very cold and here it is very warm and he is fast. He had a good rhythm and it is very hard to find a good rhythm on this course."
The poor Canadians also had trouble finding rhythm. Erik Guay, who even Svindal sympathizes with for all the fourth and fifths he's had in his career, was fifth once again Friday ... 0.03 seconds off the podium (fourth place Werner Heel was only 0.02 back).
"We wanted those medals," Guay said. "It is disappointing for us and I think for Canada also. We're here to deliver medals and we wanted to deliver medals but it just didn't happen."
Canada's other top medal contenders, Manuel Osborne-Paradis and Whistler native Robbie Dixon, fell victim to the course, going wide and crashing.
"It is racing and it is a fine line that you walk," Dixon said. "It is a bummer. There were big expectations but they were legit, not far-fetched. We had the tools and the coaching staff."
By Shauna Farnell