Rivals in awe after epic Bode run
ROSA KHUTOR, Russia (Reuters) - A vintage Bode Miller set himself up as favorite for the showcase men's Olympic downhill on Saturday after rolling back the years with a storming run in a crash-hit final training session.
The 36-year-old American showman, who will become the oldest man to win an Olympic Alpine title if he repeats the feat in today's race, sped down the icy Rosa Khutor course in two minutes, 06.09 seconds.
His closest rival, Norway's reigning world champion and 2010 silver medallist Aksel Lund Svindal, was second fastest and a hefty 0.66 slower. Italian Peter Fill was third, a second off Miller's pace.
It was the second time in three days that super-combined Olympic champion Miller, a Franconia, N.H. native, has blown away the best and led the timesheets. Norwegian rival Kjetil Jansrud described the veteran's latest run as "epic.''
"He's a great skier and you can see ... how he does something that nobody else does," he told reporters. "He will be very dangerous tomorrow. I think he's probably the biggest favorite."
American teammate Marco Sullivan agreed: "That was pretty incredible skiing," he said. "If he can pull that off tomorrow, it's his race to lose in my opinion.
"He looks so smooth and fast on top and he let up through the middle a bit because I think he was trying to save some strength. So to still come down a second ahead it's pretty amazing."
"Unbeatable'' was another word on other skiers' lips, although not Svindal's, and Miller made no bones about his aspirations in what are his fifth Games.
"The idea is to be unbeatable. Race day is always different. It's going to be hard to stay calm," he told reporters in the finish, after a hug from compatriot and 1998 super-G champion Picabo Street.
"Some courses, if you get fired up or you have too much intensity, you go slower. This one I don't think is the case. I am going to be ready. I want to win," said Miller.
Svindal, naturally enough, refused to accept it was his rival's race to lose.
"Skiing is never like that. There are just too many things that can happen," he smiled. "But is he the favorite? I think so. He has been the best skier on this mountain.
"So right now he looks like the favorite. But there's me and three or four other guys that could beat him. So we'll see what happens."
He listed among those other contenders young Austrian Matthias Mayer, who was fastest on Friday after Miller made a mistake, and Swiss skiers Patrick Kueng and Carlo Janka.
Mayer was one of several skiers who failed to finish, with the first three out of the starting hut quickly finding themselves in trouble.
Slovenian Rok Perko, the first to go, left a bloodstained mark on the snow after a fall that led to a lengthy interruption.
Sullivan followed him out with an error that could have had major consequences but fortunately left him only slightly shaken.
The American lost control after landing off the Bear's Brow jump and was heading towards a flimsy-looking red plastic safety fence at high speed before veering to safety.