February 15, 2014 in Sports

Americans slip on slopes

Elliott Almond San Jose Mercury News

KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia – America’s grip on the men’s super combined ski race ended in the mush Friday at the Rosa Khutor Alpine Center.

Reigning Olympic champion Bode Miller and 2006 gold medalist Ted Ligety couldn’t find the magic on a bumpy course that left many of the world’s top skiers flailing.

That allowed unheralded Sando Viletta of Switzerland to steal the gold medal while slalom expert Ivica Kostelic of Croatia became the first alpine skier to win four Olympic silver medals. Italy’s Christof Innerhofer claimed bronze for his second medal at the Sochi games.

Meanwhile, Miller was sixth and Ligety, the current world champion in the combined event, struggled with the lower portion of the slalom run to finish 12th. Olympic newcomer Jared Goldberg had a solid run to edge Ligety and take 11th.

Ligety, 29, just didn’t go hard enough in the slalom after finishing 18th in the downhill portion of the two-run race.

Miller offered excuses after finishing eighth in the downhill earlier this week.

But the most decorated U.S. alpine Olympic skier with five medals looked no further than himself Friday.

He chastised himself after the downhill, which was moved up an hour to avoid the late-morning sun. The poor run cost him too much time to make up in the slalom, an event he hasn’t raced much in recent years.

“I don’t have enough confidence in my slalom to go out and just pin it,” he said. “I tried anyway ’cause that’s what I had to do to be on the podium.”

Miller’s combined time of 2 minutes 46.60 seconds was 1.40 seconds behind Viletta, who became the first Swiss man to win the super combined.

Not that it provided any solace, but Miller earned his ninth top-10 Olympic placing – tying him with Lasse Kjus of Norway for second in history. Norwegian great Kjetil Andre Aamodt holds the record with 13.

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