Sochi, Russia Bode Miller crossed the finish line, took one look and knew it was over.
His head dropped toward the ground, his full weight resting on his pulls. Eventually, he sat down on the back of his skis.
2014 Winter Olympics
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The downhill event at Rhosa Khutor Alpine Center wasn’t meant to be for Miller, a slow midsection doing in the prohibitive favorite.
“I would have loved to win, obviously,” Miller said. “This is the premier event and something I’ve thought about quite a bit. But when it’s out of your control, that takes the disappointment away. I don’t think I’d change much. I think I skied well enough to win. It just doesn’t happen sometimes.”
What did change was the weather. After three days of training under bluebird conditions, Sunday’s weather was overcast and gray, and featured flat light.
Austrian skier Matthias Mayer — who won the second training run — won the gold, maneuvering the challenging course in 2:06.23. Italy’s Christof Innerhofer was second in 2:06.29, and Norway’s Kjetil Jansrud was third in 2:06.33.
America’s Travis Ganong was fifth in 2:06.64.
"Before the race, Bode told me that he was really nervous, but I was looking forward to the race, and I think that was an advantage," Mayer said.
Mayer had skied well all week, but the 23-year-old was a mild surprise. His best finish in a downhill this season came with a second place finish in mid-January in Switzerland. He also had one other podium at the beginning of the season in a super-G event.
Mayer said he watched film of Miller’s training runs and knew he could beat him on the lower sections.
“I knew that I could win this race,” he said. “I was smiling the whole day, all throughout the inspection. It was my day today."
Miller started well, leading at each of the first two splits. But he made a costly mistake in the middle section, pinching a turn too tight and hitting a gate. Miller said hitting the gate didn’t matter, and most skiers did lose speed in the middle section. But where he hit it, going into an uphill, proved costly.
Although teammates and coaches acknowledged the mistake, Miller instead looked at the visibility as the biggest factor.
“To know you’re going to dial it back to 80 percent just doesn’t fit into the plan very well,” said Miller, who finished 0.52 seconds back, in eighth. “I was happy with the tactics I had. I skied really, really hard. I took a lot of risks and didn’t back off at all.”
The better story, though, was Ganong's performance. The finish marked his best career result.
“I’m at a point where I know my skiing is good and I just need to relax,” he said. “That’s a really fun place to be.”
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