February 20, 2006
SESTRIERE, Italy (USSA Press Release)—Bode Miller (Bretton Woods, NH) was the top American finisher in sixth, while three-time Olympian Erik Schlopy (Park City, UT) placed 13th in Monday's Olympic giant slalom. Ted Ligety (Park City, UT) and Daron Rahlves (Sugar Bowl, CA) skied out on their first runs as Austrian Benjamin Raich won his first Olympic gold medal.
Considered a favorite to win the GS, Raich didn't disappoint and topped the field with a two-run combined time of 2:35.00. France's Joel Chenal took silver in 2:35.07 and Austrian Hermann Maier picked up the bronze in 2:35.16.
Miller, the '02 double silver medalist in GS and combined, tied Norwegian Aksel Lund Svindal for sixth place with a time of 2:36.06. Schlopy was 13th in 2:37.56.
"I think we had some bright spots today," said U.S. Alpine Director Jesse Hunt. "Some of the guys put down some good splits. Bode put down a great second run. But, overall, it was definitely not where we wanted to be. We wanted to be on the podium. Giant slalom is one of our strongest disciplines on the men's side and we had expectations to be on the podium today and we're not there."
Both Miller and Schlopy had stronger second runs than first. Miller moved up six spots from 12th to sixth, while Schlopy went from 17th to 13th.
"He (Miller) had a super second run," said Hunt. "He made a little bobble on the top but for the most part, he put down a super run. The first run, he struggled a little bit. He hit a stone or something and blew part of his edge. He did an awesome job just to get down and put himself in a position for the second run. He should be proud of what he did today."
The GS was Miller's fourth event of the '06 Games. He placed fifth in the downhill to lead the American contingent, was disqualified for straddling a gate in the combined and did not finish his super G run.
For Schlopy, it was his best career Olympic finish. In Park City in 2002, he was 14th in slalom and did not start his second GS run. At the '94 Lillehammer Games, he placed 34th in the GS.
The Austrian team has taken gold in the GS for the past three Olympics as Stefan Eberharter won in '02 and Maier was victorious in '98. It was Raich's first medal of these Games. He was 21st in the super G and did not finish his second slalom run of the combined.
Canadian Francois Bourque laid down the fastest first run in 1:16.61, but ended up finishing fourth. Raich was in fifth behind Bourque, Chenal, Nyberg and Maier going into his second run.
Ligety and Rahlves were among 34 racers that did not finish their first runs. [pagebreak]"It's very hard to swallow, knowing this is the last time I'll be in an event like this," said Rahlves, 32, who is competing in his third Olympics. "Overall, I think it's been a great year for me, but it just didn't happen here. It's disappointing to be at three Olympics and not have a medal."
Rahlves, who has three wins and six podiums on the World Cup circuit this season, placed 9th in the super G and 10th in the downhill at these Olympics.
"I think Daron just put out a great effort," said Hunt. "He didn't do what he wanted to get done here. Downhill was really his big event. That was really what he was focused on."
Ligety, an Olympic rookie, owns one of four gold medals won by U.S. skiers and snowboarders at the Torino Games as he was the combined winner.
"My GS is not that strong yet that I can afford to be so aggressive," said Ligety. "I just went too direct and went out. It's definitely difficult conditions for sure. It's not an easy race today."
Only four skiers DNF'ed in run two.
The first run was originally scheduled to start at 10:30 a.m., but was postponed for an hour so course crews could finish preparing as heavy snow on Sunday left plenty of powder on the course.
The final men's alpine event of the Olympics is the slalom, which is scheduled for Sat., Feb. 25 in Sestriere.
"I think he's (Ligety) obvisouly showwn the world he can ski some really fast slalom, so it should be an exciting event," said Hunt.
XX OLYMPIC WINTER GAMES
Sestriere, ITA - Feb. 20
Men's Giant Slalom
1. Benjamin Raich, Austria, 2:35.00
2. Joel Chenal, France, 2:35.07
3. Hermann Maier, Austria, 2:35.16
4. Francois Bourque, Canada, 2:35.92
5. Fredrik Nyberg, Sweden, 2:36.05
T6. Bode Miller, Bretton Woods, N.H., 2:36.06
13. Erik Schlopy, Park City, Utah, 2:37.56
Did not finish first run:
Ted Ligety, Park City, Utah
Daron Rahlves, Sugar Bowl, Calif.