KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia – Two days after stating that consequences ultimately define downhill skiing, U.S. skier Bode Miller warned that Sochi's brutal downhill course has the potential to kill in these Games.
Saturday's course had a harder pack and icier conditions than in previous runs – a wicked combination that led 10 racers to crash and 19 others to completely skip their final practice opportunity. Slovenian racer Rok Perko took a particularly explosive tumble, leaving shaken and with a bloody nose.
But in typical swashbuckling style, Miller attacked the course rather than dialing back, and finished with the fastest downhill run for the second time in three days. But Miller wasn't in celebration at the end of the run. If anything, he was wide-eyed after watching so many crashes, including a near disaster by teammate Marco Sullivan that was averted at the last moment.
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At one point, Sullivan wobbled after a jump and careened toward a lightly barricaded safety fence, saving himself at the last moment by steering off course and abandoning his run.
"He almost killed himself," Miller told reporters. "If that crash doesn't go just the way it went, he goes flying through B [safety] nets going 75 [miles per hour] and straight into the trees.
"I was going to go easier but seeing those first couple of guys crashing, I decided not to do that. It is so damn fast and the snow is so hard that you don't want to sacrifice edge pressure and grip on the snow for aerodynamics. …If you are not totally focused, this course can kill you. It is one of those courses where I don't think you are safe going easy."
Racers have had issues missing gates on the course for days, but it was lauded early on for being diverse enough to cater to a variety of skiing styles – potentially resulting in a wide-open event. And it seemed to particularly fit Miller, who has continued to be one of the risk-takers in Alpine while also enhancing his repertoire with experience befitting someone who has pushed off in more than 400 World Cup events.
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But ice setting in on the course for Sunday's downhill event could be an ominous development for everyone – potentially foreshadowing a crash-marred opener for Alpine.
"The whole middle [of the course] you can see the glare ice reflection," Miller said "But I just said, '[expletive] bring it.' It's a pleasure for me to ski on this track. I would be angry with myself if I had wasted this opportunity to properly run on this track."
The 36-year-old Miller has been in a noticeable groove in Sochi, blowing away younger competitors in downhill training and making sizeable favorite Aksel Lund Svindal look more vulnerable by the day.
"The other skiers think they are skiing well but they're half a second behind [Miller]," U.S. teammate Steven Nyman told reporters. "When you see guys in the zone it's impressive. And that is where he is now."
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