I’ll remember tonight for the rest of my life. It was one of those nights when you realize you are seeing someone really special perform something that has never been done before.
At 18, Mikaela Shiffrin is the youngest Olympic slalom champion of all time. It could be her youth, it could be her technique, or it could just be that she has a natural talent for shredding slalom like no one else in history. She is only the fourth US woman to strike gold in the Olympic slalom, and the last time was in 1972, when Barbara Cochran won in Sapporo, Japan.
Shiffrin is skiing at a unmatched level. She's mature, and she skis both strategically and tactically under pressure. She did it at the World Championships last year, and she has done it again here in Sochi. Her athleticism, her fierce competitive spirit, and her ability to shrug off the pressure is the perfect recipe for a champion. Plus, she believes she is good.
“She was really confident today and said a few things that made me think she would win today," said her coach, Roland Pfeifer. "I noticed when she was 16, she was really special and she really thinks 24/7 about skiing. She is full-on all the time and a real professional.”
The first run of the Olympics slalom started at 4:45 p.m. Sochi time, and it was a warm overcast day and the snow was soft. To firm the snow up, they added a lot of salt to ice over the surface.
The course had a lot of cranky turns in it, and the top 10 skiers had the fastest times because the snow held up for them, but after that the course had holes and ruts in it.
Marlies Schild of Austria moved from seventh in the first run to winning the silver. Kathrin Zettel won bronze.
“On the first run, I pushed my skis too hard and the snow gave way under my feet. On the second run I was able to change everything and won silver,” Schild said.
The second run began at 8:15 p.m., and the course was set a bit wider, with open turns, and the women could let their skis ride straighter through most of the course. The temperature dropped just enough to harden the snow, and the course was in much better shape.
The second run was book-ended with two Americans – the top 30 run in reverse – so New Hampshire’s Julia Ford was the first one down the coarse and Shiffrin ran 30th.
“Both of the women on the podium with me tonight were my childhood heroes, and I’m just honored to be up here with them," Shiffrin said. "I’ve proven to myself that I can win. The gold medal will change me the way I want to be changed. I’m still going to be the same girl, and looking for more speed on the mountain.”
With that statement, Shiffrin embarked on a media tour with her gold medal. She'll likely handle that as well as she handled the icy terrain on the FIS World Cup and the Olympics, and it's also likely we will have many more memorable runs performed by a true champion.
Mancuso added a bronze medal to her collection in the super combined skiing event at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.
Mancuso won the downhill portion of the super combined with ease. She was clearly the smoothest skier of the day and carved the hardest parts of the track where most racers had issues. Running last in the slalom, she was able to ski fast enough to grab the bronze.
“The best part of today was crossing the finish line in both the downhill and the slalom,” laughed an ecstatic Mancuso in the finish area. “Just knowing that I skied well and was one of the last ones down made it feel so good to see my name in the top three.”
She was the silver medalist in this event in Vancouver in 2010, and hasn’t run a full length slalom run since last season in France. Mancuso is known for winning at the big events, and she now has four Olympic medals.
"When I won on the first run in the giant slalom in Torino, my grandpa was so proud of me and said 'nothing else matters now, you've already won my race'. He's in the heavens now, so I'm looking up to him right now. This is for my grandpa," Mancuso said.
Her grandmother, Sheila, was in the stands and cried afterward.
“I’m just so proud of her, all of us are just so proud," she said.
It was a field of heavy hitters, Maria Hoefl-Riesch of Germany won this event in Vancouver, and she did it again in Russia. She is one of the best all-around skiers in the world and dominated the slalom run today. This was her fourth Olympic gold medal.
The silver medal went to Nicole Hosp of Austria, who has six World Championship medals and two previous Olympic silver medals.
“Julia has an energy that just shines. She knows how to win," said Mancuso's mother, Andrea.
“Bode Miller is flying,” yelled the announcer, and he was.
The New Hampshire skier handled the ruts, the bumps and fallaways like the veteran that he is at the Winter Olympics downhill Sunday. His run had a special feeling to it, but in the end, it wasn’t to be on this overcast day in Sochi.
He smashed into several gates in the middle part of the course and finished eighth.
"I didn’t make any mistakes today, the bottom of the course got slower and I was leading up until that point,” Miller said at the bottom of the race hill at Rosa Khutor Ski Area.
Miller has more World Cup starts than anyone else here at the games in Alpine skiing and had won the two training runs. His Olympic run had the crowd on its feet for over 3/4 of the descent.
"The light was flat and I couldn’t see the snow as good as I liked," Miller said. "This course has teeth and it can bite you at any moment. It was my type of downhill.”
Miller talked all week about how much he like the track and how challenging it was. Many thought he would rule the day.
However the day belonged to Matthias Mayer, son of the famous Austrian ski champion Helmut Mayer. He blew the pre-race predictions apart with an electrifying run to win gold in the men's downhill on Sunday morning.
The 23-year-old went one better than his father, who took silver in the super G at the Calgary 1988 Games. The Austrian has never tasted victory in a major international downhill race before.
"I only started to realize my success when I stepped on to the podium," Mayer said.
Miller now set his sights on the Super Combined of downhill and slalom later in the week.
Miller is in his best physical shape in recent years.
"For all the years in racing from Olympics to World Cup, it has become a little old hat to me, although I’m in great shape, I still need to find a bit of motivation.”
The sting of this result might just be the motivation he needs. If his career says anything about his ability, it's best not to bet against Bode when he is down. With Miller, anything is possible and he like the pressure and he likes coming from behind.
This is Miller’s fifh and final Olympics, he has five Olympic medals and a pickup truck of World Cup and World Championship trophies. He wants to go out on top and this is the place for him to make his final statement of ski racing domination. And we all know it will be fun to watch in the upcoming Olympic events.
VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- It took just eight seconds for Bode Miller's bid for Olympic history to be denied. That's how long it took for the Franconia, N.H. to ski off course during the first run of the men's slalom this morning at foggy Whistler Mountain, earning a disqualification in his final event here.
But no matter, really. Miller did not secure a fourth Alpine medal, which would have been a record for a single skier at the Winter Olympics, but he does depart with a gold, silver, and bronze -- not mention a repaired reputation after his disappointing bad-boy performance in Turin, Italy four years ago.
After his race today -- the final of his five events here -- the 32-year-old Miller was gracious and somewhat reflective regarding his approach today and his third career Olympics overall. Here are a few of his comments:
On his Olympic experience here overall: “I really couldn't be much happier. To have three medals, and the two medals I didn't get I skied hard. I came out, I was ready, I was prepared that's all the stuff you can do. I know the risk I'm taking -- not many people do.
“This was challenging today in a lot of different ways. But I was still ready to go and prepared to do it. It doesn't always go your way. But overall this Olympics was amazing how many things went my way.
On how his experience here affected his attitude toward skiing: "In terms of medals, it didn't change anything. In terms of skiing, it's really positive. There are sneaky little facts that make the Olympics great. I was able to tap into them and use them to my advantage."
On why he skied out in the slalom: "The snow was really grabby. I think that's part of what's causing so many problems for the guys. We haven't skied on anything like this all year -- it's the first time any of us have seen this snow. Your skis work totally differently. That's throwing guys off and making it that much more challenging.”
On his aggressiveness: “I wanted to finish in the slalom -- I wanted to do everything I could. I wanted to go out and ski hard, 100-percent slalom and see where I stacked up.
"It's unfortunate to make a mistake so early in the course before you really have a rhythm for it. But that's the way slalom goes. When you take risks in slalom, you don't only take risks on the bottom half. You take it from the very first gate. And if you don't, you can give away a tenth of a second on the first two gates.
"You have to be willing to go out and pound through the very first gates 100 percent and make time every single spot you can, especially if you're me, there's chances you're going to be losing it little bits here and there.”
On how he will approach the rest of the World Cup season: "I'm going to stay focused, keep working hard, and keep busting my ass."
Two great skiers . . . Let's see: Lindsey Vonn has a gold (downhill) and a bronze (super-G). Julia Mancuso has a pair of silvers (downhill, super combined). Vonn is the most decorated skier in US history and a ready-made star before arriving in Vancouver. Mancuso, who won gold in the event in 2006, is the favorite. Given their friends/rivals/teammates/ok-it's-complicated relationship, it'll be fascinating to see if either, neither, or both can end up on the podium today, especially since Mancuso has announced she will not race in Friday's slalom. 4:15 p.m.
. . . two great matchups: We're livin' in the Land of Hockey here, so it only seems right that the competition heats up on the ice in the culminating days of the Vancouver Games. Today brings a pair of compelling matchups in the quarterfinals: Ryan Miller and the US take on Switzerland(3 p.m.). And Canada, fresh off its mildly reassuring 8-2 rout of overmatched Germany Tuesday night, faces Alex Ovechkin and potent Russia (7:30 p.m.) in what we suspect will be an instant classic.
New heights?: Belmont's Emily Cook is among the aerialists in the finals tonight, qualifying in fifth place despite a troublesome heel that hindered her training leading up to the Games. Cook, on her third Olympic team but a finalist for the first time, said she plans to be more aggressive with her jumps tonight. Could a medal be within reach?
And don't forget . . . Another New Englander with a chance at the podium? We're all in favor. Erin Pac of Farmington, Conn. is in medal contention in women's bobsled; she's in second place heading into today's third heat.
There will be no medal in the giant slalom for Bode Miller.
The Franconia, N.H., native, who has had a remarkable fortnight on Whistler Mountain, winning three medals and tempering the memory of his 0-for-Turin four years ago, skied off course this morning and did not finish.
Carlo Janka of Switzerland won the gold.
Miller, who started 31st in a field of 103 racers, appeared to struggle to find his groove through the early portions of the first race and nearly crashed near the top. But it was in the lower half of the course where he faltered.
Coming wide out of a gate, he almost became parallel with the ground. At the following righthand gate, still off balance and struggling to correct his line, he slipped off the course after being unable to make the turn and was disqualified.
Miller's daring, carefree, and occasionally reckless style has resulted in considerably more success in the downhill than in the slalom in recent years; in fact, he has often struggled to complete the slalom, which made his victory in the super combined Sunday in which he came from behind with a magnificent slalom run after finishing seventh in the downhill portion, all the more remarkable.
His lone result in the race on the World Cup tour this season came last month, when he finished in 14th-place at Adelboden, Switzerland.
Miller, who won gold in the super combined, silver in the super G, and bronze in the downhill, will have one more chance here to win a record fourth Alpine medal in one Olympic games. The slalom is Saturday.
For the first time in seven Alpine events here, the US did not medal; it has won eight Alpine medals so far. Ted Ligety, who is ranked first in the World Cup giant slalom standings, finished ninth.
The giant slalom is the combined scores of two slalom runs on different courses.
They might be giants: Bode Miller goes for his fourth medal of the Vancouver Games in the giant slalom, but the best bet to win an astounding ninth Alpine medal for the US team is Ted Ligety. Ligety, who won gold in the men's super-combined at Turin, Italy in 2006 and had the best slalom time in the event here, is tops in the World Cup standings in the giant slalom, a race in which each skier makes two slalom runs, each on a different course, with the winner determined by combined times. (You know what? We've learned our lesson. We're betting on Bode, too.)
Yo, Canada: Canada's 5-3 loss to the United States was disappointing and damaging, but it wasn't devastating. A loss to Germany today for the home team in the qualifying playoffs? Now that would be devastating. 7:40 p.m.
And don't forget . . . . . . a number of medal events today, including men's speedskating 10,000 meters (2 p.m.); women's biathlon 4x6K relay (2:30 p.m.); women's freestyle ski cross (4 p.m.); and men's Nordic combined 4x5K (4 p.m.).
VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- The lesson, as always: Doubt Bode Miller at your own peril. Because he will never doubt himself.
Miller completed a breathtaking and seemingly improbable run in the slalom to win the gold medal in the super combined this afternoon at Whistler Creekside.
“I skied with 100 percent heart and I didn’t hold anything back,” Miller said. “It’s just awesome. There’s nothing else to say. The way I executed, the way I skied, is something I’ll be proud of the rest of my life.”
Miller posted a combined (downhill and slalom) time of 2 minutes 44.92 seconds. Ivica Kostelic of Croatia took silver (2:45.25), and Switzerland's Silvan Zurbriggen earned bronze (2:45.32).
After being shut out from the podium in Turin, Italy four years ago and receiving much scorn from media and teammates for his casual attitude, Miller has found redemption and then some here. The Franconia, N.H. native now has three medals in these Olympics, adding to his bronze in the downhill and his silver in the super-G.
The super combined is a downhill time plus one slalom run. Miller stood in seventh place after the downhill portion, completing the course in a time of 1:53.91 seconds, which was just 0.73 off the blistering pace of the leader, Norway's Aksel Lund Svindal (1:53.15).
Starting from the 23d spot in the slalom, Miller weaved through the gates in his usual hell-bent style, finishing in 51.01 seconds, which stood up as the third-fasted slalom run of the afternoon.
Miller, who cut back on training before the Olympics and said he pondered retiring, said his legs felt wobbly toward the end.
“My legs started feeling really wobbly,” he said. “I didn’t even feel like I was looking at the gate anymore.”
Such a sensational run seemed unlikely because the slalom hasn't been Miller's strong suit in recent years, and his freewheeling style has often led to him failing to complete races. He was regarded as a superior slalom skier earlier in his career, but his only result in the race on the World Cup circuit this season was a 14th-place finish in Adelboden, Switzerland in January.
But he did win a combined event at Wengen, Switzerland earlier this season. After his downhill run, he was typically confident that he could find his way to the podium.
"If I have a good slalom, I can definitely do it," Miller said. "It's not like I was going to be holding back anyway. But I am going to be going full gas in the slalom."
Did he ever. After completing his spectacular run through the 41 gates, he watched from the finish, smiling virtually the entire time, as the top six racers took a shot at his time. But Svindal and Italy's Dominik Paris, who was second in the downhill, veered off course and didn't finish, and all of the other racers were considerably slower.
American Ted Ligety, the defending gold medalist, had the fastest slalom run and finished in fifth place with a 2:45.82, 0.90 behind Miller.
With Miller's gold, this is the sixth straight Alpine race in these Olympics in which it has medaled, and it is the US's eighth Alpine medal here overall.
And Miller still has two more chances to add to his personal medal count. He competes in the men's slalom Saturday and the giant slalom Tuesday at Whistler.
“I felt awesome about it,” he said. “But still, it’s incredibly emotionally exhausting . . . I’ve got one leg that’s injured and another leg that’s on my boat already,” he said.
Ted Ligety (Park City, Utah) won gold in 2006. Ligety had the fastest slalom run Sunday and finished in fifth place with a 2:45.82, 0.90 behind Miller.
* * *
A few other facts on Miller, as provided by the USOC's Craig Bohnert:
The showdown: The Americans lead Group A with six points, one more than the Canad . . . oh, who needs stats and standings? This one is the coveted ticket here in Vancouver, and the matchup is almost as much about emotion and national pride as it is a shot at the quarterfinals. I learned that from the roughly 62,000 people wearing red "Crosby 87" jerseys in the streets right now. 7:40 p.m.
And don't forget . . . Bode Miller has a bronze in the downhill and a silver in the super-G. Do we hear a gold in the super combined? 3:15 p.m. . . . Tanith Belbin and her partner Ben Agosto are in fourth place entering tonight's original dance (7:15 p.m.). We know Johnny Weir will be cheering for them -- Belbin is his roommate during the Olympics.
Make it two medals for Lindsey Vonn.
Vonn, the gold medalist in the women's downhill, captured the bronze in the women’s super-G this morning in competition at Whistler Creekside.
Her time of 1 minute 20.88 seconds was 0.74 off the 1:20.14 winning time of Andrea Fischbacher of Austria. She was a quarter of a second behind silver medalist Tina Maze of Slovenia (1:20.63).
After deftly navigating a tricky right turn at the Franz's Run course at the midway point, Vonn Vonn struggled near the bottom section. She lost nearly a half-second from her time -- and a shot at the silver.
"Once I got past those difficult sections, I kind of backed off the gas pedal," Vonn said. "I felt like I just didn't ski as aggressively as I could have, and I think that's where I lost the race."
Vonn becomes the third American to win two Alpine medals at the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games, joining Franconia, N.H.'s Bode Miller and teammate Julia Mancuso.
Mancuso was ninth in the super-G with a time of 1:21.50, while Conway, N.H.'s Leanne Smith tied for 18th in 1:23.05. Chelsea Marshall of Pittsfield, Vt. did not finish.
Vonn will race twice more in Vancouver, in the slalom and giant slalom, but she's a better fast skier than a technical one, and those are not her best races.
Mancuso, the defending Olympic gold medalist in the GS who has emerged from Vonn's shadow here with a pair of silver medals (downhill, super combined), could add to her own collection.
* * *
Here is a breakdown of multiple medal performances in a single Winter Olympics by US Alpine skiers, courtesy of the USOC and Olympic historian Bill Mallon:
1948 – Gretchen Fraser
1952 – Andrea Mead-Lawrence
1960 – Penny Pitou
1964 – Jean Saubert
1994 – Tommy Moe
2002 – Bode Miller
2010 – Bode Miller
2010 – Julia Mancuso
2010 – Lindsey Vonn
Bye-bye, Bonnie? Apolo Anton Ohno goes for his United States record-breaking seventh Olympic Winter Games medal in the men’s short-track speedskating 1000 meters. Should he finish on the podium, he will surpass the standard of six medals set by long-track speedskater Bonnie Blair. (For the record, she had five golds and a bronze, while Ohno has three sets of two. Just saying.)
Stealing the show on snow? In the women's super-G at Whistler, Julia Mancuso goes for her third medal of these games, while Lindsey Vonn, who won gold in the downhill Wednesday but crashed in the slalom portion of the women's combined Thursday, tries to keep pace with her lesser-heralded Alpine teammate.
And don't forget . . . The men’s 1500-meter long-track speedskating race will mark the last individual performance in Olympic medalist Chad Hedrick’s career. Teammate Shani Davis will try to send him out with a parting gift that is something less than gold . . . Lebanon, N.H. native Nick Alexander will achieve flight during large hill ski jumping at Whistler.
Nasty? If turning in to the Alpine skiing super-G to watch apparently reformed bad boy Bode Miller go for his second medal of the Vancouver Games doesn't entice you, how about this from Ted Ligety via Twitter on Wednesday: "Just finished freeskiing the super G hill. It's in horrible condition. It's gonna be a nasty race." Uh-oh. 2:30 p.m.
And don't forget . . . Actually, it's a relatively light day -- there are just a couple of other medal events: The women's cross-country 15k pursuit (4 p.m.) and the men's and women's skeleton (6.45 p.m.).
Piping up: Shaun White did his thing with style in the men's halfpipe Wednesday, defending his gold medal from Turin with a transcendent effort that included landing the Double McTwist 1260, a move only he has pulled off in competition. Tonight, it's the women's turn to show what they can do, with Vermont's Hannah Teter, the defending Olympic gold medalist, among the favorites, along with Newport, R.I. native Kelly Clark, the 2002 gold medalist in Salt Lake City, and reigning X-Games champ Gretchen Bleiler. It will be a surprise if the US doesn't claim another medal or two (dare we suggest three?) today on Cypress Mountain.
Feeling super? There's no time to rest and rejoice for freshly-minted gold medalist Lindsey Vonn, who gives it a go this morning in the super combined, a day after blowing away the field in the downhill. There is some question as to how her injured shin will feel in the event, which is essentially a slalom leg plus an abbreviated downhill, especially since she's liable to feel some effects of Wednesday's race. Of course, as she's already proven, talent plus adrenaline and toughness can take you a long way.
And don't forget . . . The men's figure skating free program: Plushenko. Lysacek. Who ya got? And if you're not into that rivalry, we know you'll tune in to check out Johnny Weir's wardrobe curiosities.
VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- Olympics sports writer John Powers talks about Wednesday's results and gives a preview of Thursday's events.
The United States landed a thrilling 1-2 combo in the women's downhill today at Whistler Creekside, with Lindsey Vonn justifying the hype that accompanied her to Vancouver and Julia Mancuso providing a reminder that the US Alpine ski team has more than one elite competitor.
LVonn won her first Olympic gold medal today with a time of 1 minute 44.19 seconds, more than a half-second ahead of teammate and silver medalist Mancuso (1:14.75). It was Mancuso's second career Olympic medal -- she won won the gold in the GS at Turin, Italy.
Austria's Elisabeth Goergl took the bronze, more than a second-and-a-half behind Vonn.
Vonn's condition was something of a mystery entering the race. As the two-time defending World Cup champion and winner of five of six downhills this season on the circuit, she came to Vancouver as the prohibitive favorite in the race.
But she revealed shortly after arrival at Whistler that she still was suffering from effects of a badly bruised shin suffered during a fall Feb. 2 during a race in Austria, and the friendly and charismatic pre-Olympic "face of the Games" for the US appeared to be in limbo.
She rarely took to the slopes in the past couple of weeks, but she gained a little bit of additional time to recover because of various delays and postponements of the skiing events in Whistler due to uncooperative weather.
But there was a new question on observers' minds virtually from the moment Vonn shot out of the gate during her run: Shin injury? What shin injury?
It did not appear to be any hindrance whatsoever. Starting 16th, a favorable position since she could receive reports of the course's condition while making her run while it was still relatively fresh, she put together a determined practically flawless performance save for a barely visible stumble near the 53-second mark that cost her a fraction of a second.
Vonn bested Mancuso's time at all four checkpoints and won by a remarkable margin of 0.56 seconds. Her gold was essentially secured at the midway point after rival Maria Riesch of Germany finished nearly two seconds behind her pace starting from the 22d position.
The Vonn-Mancuso combo atop the podium marks the first time a pair of Americans have finished in the top two spots in an Olympic Alpine race since Phil and Steve Mahre claimed gold and silver in the slalom and Deb Armstrong and Christin Cooper accomplished the feat in giant slalom in 1984 at Sarajevo.
Also, they are the first duo from the same country to win silver and gold in the women's downhill in the same Olympics since Sarajevo, when Switzerland's Michela Figini and Maria Walliser claimed the top spots on the podium.
While course conditions were said to be favorable at the beginning of the race, there were a number of crashes. Sweden's Anja Paerson, Switzerland's Dominique Gisin, and France's Marion Rolland all suffered spectacular and frigthening spills.
Update, 12:13 p.m. PST: Germany's Maria Riesch just completed her run, the 22d competitor out of the gate. She was considered one of Vonn's legitimate challengers, but she finished 8th, 2.07 seconds off Vonn's pace.
We're moving past the halfway mark here with American Alice McKennis's run, and it's becoming clearer how impressive Vonn's run really was.
She finished more than a half-second ahead of Mancuso and nearly a full second ahead of Elisabeth Goergl, who is in position for the bronze.
Update, 12:08 p.m. PST: If Vonn and Mancuso hold on to the 1-2 spots, they would be the first pair of skiers from the same country to win silver and gold in the women's downhill in the same Olympics since Sarajevo in 1984, when Switzerland's Michela Figini and Maria Walliser claimed the top spots on the podium.
Another delay as Sweden's Anja Paerson is helped off after losing control during a jump and tumbling down the course.
Update, 11:53 p.m. PST: If Lindsey Vonn is still hurting, imagine how impressive she must be when fully healthy.
Vonn just completed a spectacular, near-perfect run down Whistler Creekside of 1 minute 44.19 seconds, taking over first place from her teammate Julia Mancuso (1:44.75).
After completing her run, which appeared practically flawless save for a slight stumble near the 53-second mark, a grinning Vonn, who has been plagued by a painful shin injury, collapsed in the snow while raising her ski poles skyward as the crowd roared its approval.
Vonn beat Mancuso's time at all four time checkpoints:
Update, 11:47 p.m. PST: Vonn's coming up right . . . now. Good time to mention that no American has ever won gold here. The most recent of their four all-time medals (two silver, two bronze) was Picabo Street's silver in 1994 in Lillehammer.
Update, 11:28 PST: Could another American steal the show?
Julia Mancuso just completed a spectacular run, and she knows it -- she's beaming and waving at the finish line after taking the lead with a time of 1:44.75.
Elisabeth Goergl of Austria is second at nearly a full second back.
In a related note, our Olympics guru John Powers refers to the relationship between Vonn and Mancuso as "cordial." Interpret it as you will.
There's a brief delay right now after a frightening crash by Switzerland's Dominique Gasin, who got turned around in the air after navigating a turn. One ski flew off while she skittered out of control down the course. She walked off under her own power
Update, 11:18 PST: Nice run for Californian Stacey Cook, who took a temporary lead after four competitors.
Cook fell during a training run Monday and was airlifted from the mountain after hitting a fence and landing on the back of her skis. She was just one of two skiers to train that day before it was canceled because of poor visability.
* * *
It's almost showtime for Lindsey Vonn and the 44 other competitors in the women's downhill.
Vonn will start from the 16th position at Whistler Creekside, an enviable spot since the course should be broken in and in good condition.
Among other US skiers, Stacey Cook starts 4th, Julia Mancuso 10th, and Alice McKennis 23d.
Back in a few . . .
Here's Lindsey: We've seen her in commercials. We've seen her in the SI swimsuit issue. Now, after concerns about her injured shin and days of uncooperative weather at Whistler, we'll finally see Lindsey Vonn ski. The Minnesota native and oft-dubbed "Face of the Games" for the United States team was the favorite in the women's downhill, but her true health remains somewhat of a mystery; she said the bumpy course caused her pain in her injured leg during practice runs. Vonn has proven her toughness before. Should she do it again today in victory, all of the hype will be more than justified. 2 p.m.
White-out conditions? Heard of the Double-McTwist 1260? Nope, that's not the name and calorie count of the latest offering at McDonald's. It's snowboarding megamogul Shaun White's mysterious and complex new trick, which he says he hopes to break out in today's halfpipe. In truth, the trick, which White refers to as "massive," is no joking matter; the 1260 refers to the number of degrees in turns he makes -- yes, that's 3 1/2 revolutions. Gulp. Be safe up there, Tomato.Final, 10:15 p.m.
And don't forget . . . Speedskater Shani Davis essentially used the 500 meters Monday as high-profile warmup, pulling out after one race to focus on preparing for today's 1,000 meters. His decision should be justified -- he is the heavy favorite as the world-record holder and defending gold medalist in the event. In terms of his legacy, the stakes for Davis are high: Should he win, he will become the first skater in Olympic history to win gold in the event twice.
3:38 p.m. One race into the Vancouver Games, and Bode Miller has already surpassed his output from Turin four years ago.
Miller won the third Olympic medal of his career this afternoon -- and the first since he claimed a pair of silvers at the '02 Games in Salt Lake City -- by hanging on to win the bronze today in the men's downhill at Whistler Mountain.
Miller, eighth of 64 racers out of the gate, took an early lead with a run of 1 minute, 54.40 seconds. He was bumped to second by just .02 by Aksel Lund Svindal of Norway, the defending World Cup overall champion who ended up with the silver.
The gold went to Switzerland's Didier Defago, who surpassed Svindal and Miller as the 18th racer down the hill with a time of 1:54.31. There were no changes among the top three during the final 46 competitors.
Defago, 32, is the first Swiss skier to win gold in the men's downhill since Pirmin Zurbriggen at the 1988 Calgary Games.
Miller’s medal is the first for the US in the men's downhill since Tommy Moe won gold in 1994.
3:15 p.m. A few quotes from Miller from an interview a couple of moments ago with CTV as he waited for other skiers to finish:
3:08 p.m. Forty-two down, 22 to go. For fear of a jinx we don't want to suggest Bode's in a pretty good spot, but . . .
2:56 p.m. With German Stephan Keppler the 32d racer down the mountain, we're now at the halfway point.
2:53 p.m. Marco Sullivan, starting from the 27th spot, is the fourth and final United States entrant. Andrew Weinbrecht started fourth and Stephen Nyman sixth. Sullivan lost control near the bottom of his run -- it appeared to begin when he was airborne -- and crashed into a gate, but he walked away unscathed.
2:51 p.m. It is considered a surprise that Defago and not Cuche is the Swiss skier in medal contention. They were expecting a different Didier.
2:43 p.m. Much has been made of Miller's improved attitute regarding his perception of the Olympics -- his attitude of nonchalance and/or indifference in Turin has not made the trip to Vancouver.
I meant to note earlier that further evidence that these Games matter to him could be found in his reaction -- looking skyward with a smile, his hands clasped -- after completing his run. Cool to see.
2:33 p.m. It should be said that Miller still has a decent chance of medaling here.
Most of the top racers -- including World Cup downhill leader Didier Cuche of Switzerland and Canadian Robbie Dixon (who crashed and didn't not appear injured) have completed their runs. They were the 22d and 23d skiers to leave the gate, respectively.
2:19 p.m. And now it's bronze or bust for Bode
Swiss racer Didier Defago grabbed the lead from Svindal just two racers after the Norwegian had take the top spot, bumping Miller to third with a time of 1:54.31.
2:09 p.m.: Well, that didn't last long.
Aksel Lund Svindal of Norway, the 16th racer down the mountain, just took over the top spot to edge Miller by .02 with a time of 1:54.38
Svindal appeared to overtake Miller's time near the end his run. He appeared to ski flawlessly after being slightly off the pace for the first quarter.
1:50 p.m. PST: It was an early start for Bode Miller in the men's downhill this morning -- he was the eighth of what will be 64 competitors to navigate down the Whistler Creekside mountain course.
It was also a fast start for the Franconia, N.H. native -- he took over the lead from France's David Poisson with a run of 1:54.40.
The downhill is the first of five events Miller will ski during these Games. His bid for redemption after failing to medal in Turin, Italy in 1996 is among the more compelling storylines here in Vancouver.
Miller is the most decorated US Alpine skier ever, with 32 World Cup victories, but he owns just a pair of silver medals from his four Olympic appearances, both won in Salt Lake City in 2002.
The race is finally taking place after being postponed over the weekend. The temparatures on the mountain are in the upper 20s, the hard, fast conditions should benefit the skiers.
Miller time: Actually, maybe that's not the best way to put it since Bode Miller has admitted that his disappointing performance in Turin four years ago could in part be attributed to his affinity for the night life. But the rebellious American downhiller and four-time Olympian says he is taking it more seriously this time around. "I'm psyched. I'm ready to win," said Miller, who owns a US-record 32 World Cup victories but has collected just a pair of silvers in the Olympics, both coming at Salt Lake City in 2002. He's competing in five Alpine events here, and he'll get his first shot at redemption today in the downhill -- presuming the weather cooperates. The race was among the skiing events canceled at warm and rainy Whistler over the weekend. 1:30 p.m.
Maine event: Seth Wescott, whose gold-medal run in the inaugural Olympic men's snowboardcross four years made the wild, crowd-pleasing sport one of the surprise hits of the Turin Games, goes for a repeat today at Cypress Mountain. But the 33-year-old Mainah, who owns a popular restaurant/bar at Sugarloaf Mountain when he's not zipping around on a snowboard somewhere, may not be the best bet to reach the podium on the US team. Teammate Nate Holland, who crashed in Turin and finished 14th, says he has been focused on Vancouver since then. Qualifying heats, 1:30 p.m., 2:45 p.m.; Quarterfinals, 5:26 p.m., 5:32 p.m.; Semifinals, 5:46 p.m.; Finals, 5:52 p.m.
US skiing star Lindsey Vonn, who badly injured her right shin while training in Austria last week, said today that she's not sure whether she'll be able to compete in the Olympics. "Three days ago I would have said absolutely not," said Vonn, whose first race will be Sunday's super combined where she is favored to win what would be the first of her three predicted gold medals. "I'm optimistic, but I'm not sure."
Vonn, who plans to train tomorrow at Whistler, needs to complete one of the three practice runs in order to be allowed to start. She hasn't been on snow since a week ago yesterday when she went over the top of her skis during a slalom and hyperextended her leg. "I tried to put on my boot in my room and it was excruciatingly painful," said Vonn, who refused to have her shin X-rayed because she was afraid that it was broken.
Vonn, the two-time World Cup champion who'll be competing in her third Games, has a history of fighting through injuries. Four years ago in Turin, she injured her back after crashing on a downhill training run and was hospitalized overnight but went on to finish eighth in the race and earned the US Olympic Spirit Award. In December, after falling in a World Cup giant slalom and bruising her left arm, Vonn rebounded to win three straight Cup races. "I have faced a lot of challenges in the past and had a lot of injuries," she said, "but this is definitely the most painful injury I've ever had."
Vonn said she didn't publicize her condition because "I didn't want to alarm anyone if it wasn't necessary" and said that she won't use the injury as an alibi if she fails to win a medal. "No way am I giving myself an excuse if I don't do well," she said. "I wish this had never happened, but I'm still going to do the best I can. If I don't do well, so be it. You can be sure that when I'm in the starting gate -- if I'm in the starting gate -- that I'm in there to win."
Vonn, who is planning on competing in all five Alpine events, has three days between the combined and the downhill and another three before the Super G, which are her best gold medal possibilities. "I'm hoping that when I get on skis that I'll be okay," she said, "but I have no idea."
American skier Lindsey Vonn revealed Wednesday morning on the "Today" show that she has a shin injury that could affect her participation and performance in the Winter Olympics, which begin Friday.
Vonn said her shin bruise is extremely painful because it is located at a point of contact with her ski boot. She could not give "Today" show host Matt Lauer an estimate -- in terms of percentage -- of how healthy she was entering the Games.
Later Wednesday, at a press conference in Vancouver, Vonn said she was unsure she'd be able to compete in the games.
"I'm sitting here today questioning whether, you know, I'll be even able to ski," Vonn said. "I have to play it by ear."
Vonn said she injured her right shin in a training run a week ago in Austria. It was diagnosed, she said, as a deep muscle bruise, and Dr. William Sterret, a doctor for the US ski team, told her it could take several weeks to heal.
Vonn is widely regarded as the top American athlete at the Games, and she was planning to compete in all five Alpine skiing disciplines at Vancouver. The first, the women's super combined, is scheduled for Sunday.
"I honestly don't know if I'll be able to do it," Vonn said.
The injury on the eve of the games is reminiscent of the 2006 games in Torino, Italy, when Vonn -- then Lindsey Kildow -- crashed during a practice run and was taken to a hospital. Pain medication helped her race, but she did not win a medal.
Vonn said she may have to limit her training runs, and she did not rule out skipping a race if she is not up to it.
“I’m a lot less sure about this injury than I have been in the past,” she said. “I’ve fought through injuries in the past. I’m no stranger to that. But it’s going to be really hard. I have to stay positive and do the best I can. That’s all I can do.”
According to the New York Times, Vonn has not skied the Olympic downhill course at Whistler yet because Canadian officials have kept it closed to all but the Canadian ski teams.