Viletta stuns in Super Combined
VILETTA, whose best finish in a super combined race before Friday was fourth in Wengen in January, joined mens and ladies downhill gold medallistsMatthias MAYER (AUT) and Dominique GISIN (SUI) as skiers that few could have predicted for glory on the sport's biggest stage.
While there was no surprise about the mens super combined silver medallist - Ivica KOSTELIC (CRO) has now won three consecutive silvers in this event - speed specialist Christof INNERHOFER (ITA) added to the sense of shock at Rosa Khutor by taking bronze. The 2014 mens downhill silver medallist could never be accused of being in love with slalom.
"I practised slalom only four days in two years. At the start gate, I nearly decided not to bother because the downhill went so well for a lot of the slalom specialists," a delighted INNERHOFER said.
VILETTA, who is Switzerland's first Olympic super combined gold medallist, was 14th quickest in the downhill run on Friday morning, 1.64 seconds behind Kjetil JANSRUD (NOR). The 28 year old Swiss has shown some sparks of form in the super combined this season, following a fourth in Wengen with a seventh in Kitzbuehel. He also finished fifth in the super combined world championship in 2013.
None of this suggested, however, that the Swiss skier was on the verge of getting his second career win (his first came in a world cup super G race in December 2009) at the 2014 Olympic Games.
"I didn't think I would come first, it's also a big shock," said the champion.
As temperatures hit 14 degrees, the combination of a tough, steep course and soft, wet snow caused problems for even the best skiers. Alexis PINTURAULT (FRA) was one of the 11 skiers not to finish the super combined, after making a mistake on the top section. Fellow favourite and winner of the last world cup super G race before the Games Ted LIGETY (USA) struggled to get 12th.
"They (the conditions) really make for funky results. You can see the results sheet so far, it's far from the world cup result sheets. But we all have to ski and deal with it. There are no excuses," said LIGETY, the 2013 super combined world champion.
One man who many of the field imagined would find the slalom to his liking was KOSTELIC. The 33-year-old's father Ante KOSTELIC (CRO) set the course and all eyes expressed gold when his son lined up in the start gates with an advantage of 0.70 seconds on VILETTA. KOSTELIC the younger, who won a silver medal in slalom at the 2010 Games and was slalom world champion in 2003, lost that time almost immediately. Despite making some headway on the flatter lower section, the Croatian fell 0.34 seconds short.
"When I look around me a lot of people on the podium have changed, but I stayed. I thought I had a really good downhill and so I was hoping for the gold this time," said KOSTELIC.
He is the first man to win three Olympic medals in a single alpine skiing event. He is also the second oldest Olympic medallist.
Fellow 30-plus year old Bode MILLER (USA) was unable to make up for a disappointing downhill, in which he was 12th quickest. The 2010 super combined champion ended 6th.