KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia – The podium drought for the U.S. men’s Alpine program continues.
Mediocre downhill performances in the super combined ultimately knocked the United States out of contention Friday, leaving the Alpine men without a medal through the first two races of the Sochi Games. Bode Miller – the gold medalist in the event in the 2010 Vancouver Games – was sixth. Super combined world champion Ted Ligety had a solid but unspectacular slalom run, slowing near the bottom of the course and ultimately finishing 12th overall with a times of 2:47.39. The other two American skiers, Jared Goldberg (11th) and Andrew Weibrecht, who crashed in the middle of his slalom run, also did not medal.
Switzerland's Sandro Viletta won gold with a combined time of 2:45.20. Croatia's Ivica Kostelic took the silver and Italy's Christof Innerhofer won bronze.
Miller and Ligety both had less than ideal starts in the downhill portions of the events, finishing 1.43 and 1.93 off the lead and in 12th and 18th place, respectively. Miller normally isn’t as strong in the slalom as Ligety, but posted a better time to finish ahead of him in the standings. Norway's Kjetil Jansrud paced the field in the downhill portion with a time of 1:53.24. Goldberg and Weibrecht finished the downhill in 15th and 20th position, trailing by 1.66 and 2.09 seconds, respectively.
Ligety said the course conditions were less than ideal.
"They really make for funky results," Ligety said. "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."
Despite being moved up one hour to extend the integrity of the downhill run, Ligety and Miller said the sun did impact the snow quality and made it difficult for skiers further down the order. The U.S. had fairly mediocre starting positions, with Ligety, Weibrecht and Miller pushing off 22 through 24. Goldberg drew 28th position.
"It's so hot," Ligety said. "All the top guys ran pretty early so that's definitely a big factor."
"All those little ripples, guys are just breaking off all the top of those," Miller said. "They make all the bumps sharper because they carve out the dish and then put a little kicker on it. Obviously the middle and bottom was soft. The sun is just cooking it up there. That didn't play for any of us. I think Americans had tough start numbers, but there's no way to know that beforehand. It could have gotten faster. Most likely not, but it's always possible.
"We had to take maximum risk. I think everyone did. But the mistakes I made, there's no excuse for those."
It’s a tough start for the U.S. men, who saw Miller win bronze in the downhill and a gold in the super combined in the 2010 Vancouver Games. They’ll get another shot Sunday in the super-G – a race that saw Miller earn silver and Weibrecht earn bronze in Vancouver.
Click the image below for more pictures of Ted Ligety and Bode Miller