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A Gray Day For the U.S. Men's Alpine Team

A Gray Day For the U.S. Men's Alpine Team

[ Tue, 2010-02-23 20:56 ]
Kjetil Jansrud of Norway congratulates Carlo Janka at the finish of his gold medal Giant Slalom run at the Vancouver 2010 Olympics games on Tuesday, February 23.
Despite high hopes for Miller and Ligety, the U.S. walked away from today's giant slalom without a medal.

For the first day in a week, the skies over Whistler's Dave Murray Downhill course were cloudy and cold, so perhaps it's fitting that the GS victory went to Switzerland's Carol Janka, nicknamed The Iceman. Janka, who's been skiing great all season, put down the fastest combined time in the two-run event to secure the gold by a margin of .39 seconds. Behind him, Norway's Kjetil Jansrud and Aksel Lund Svindal, whose bronze today is his third of these games. Like Bode Miller, Svindal now has one of each color, and like Miller, he's a five-event skier. That means the two will duke it out Saturday to be the first alpine racer to win four medals in a single Olympics.

And if Miller can earn a medal on Saturday, he'll become the first athlete from any nation to medal in all five Olympic events. Today, however, the smooth and steady skiing we've seen from Miller all week seemed to have disappeared with the sun. In its place was his trademark on-the-edge performance. Just a couple turns out of the gate in the first run, Miller made a mistake that put him one-tenth back at the first split. By the second split, he was a second back. Then, just before he came into view of the finish line, Miller got late on his line and had to throw his skis sideways. He missed the next gate and skied off the course. In the GS, you must finish the first run in order to ski the second, so with that mistake, Miller was out of the running on a day that would see many strong contenders fall far out of medal contention.

Ted Ligety, 2006 combined gold medalist and strong medal contender here, skied a smooth first run that put him in seventh place. But a slightly reserved and shaky second run dropped him two spots to finish in ninth position. Didier Cuche, the Swiss team’s strongest hope for a medal in the games, rose from 20th position to 14th, but he was clearly not the skier we’ve seen on the World Cup circuit so far this season. And Benni Raich, defending gold medalist in the GS, skied a strong first run that put him into sixth place, but he wouldn’t ascend any higher in the rankings after catching a gate with his arm early in his second run.

The most exciting performance of the day came from Alpine Canada’s Erik Guay, who finished the first run in 29th position. Skiing second in the final run, Guay turned in the second-fastest final-run time of the entire field that put him in the gold medal seat until Cuche skied. Guay's medal hopes would eventually evaporate, but the blazing second run excited the hometown crowd after a relatively disappointing week for the Canadian alpine team.