February 14, 2006
SESTRIERE, Italy (AP Press Release)—Didier Defago of Switzerland took an early lead in the downhill portion of the men's Alpine combined event Tuesday morning. The defending Olympic champion, Kjetil Andre Aamodt of Norway, pulled out before his run with a sore left knee.
Defago's time of 1 minute, 38.68 seconds was the fastest among the first 15 competitors. Austrians Rainer Schoenfelder and Benjamin Raich also were in good position after the run.
Tuesday's run was held up by two crashes in the first 10 racers.
American Bode Miller, the gold medal favorite, was set to start 32nd _ two spots after another medal favorite, Aksel Lund Svindal of Norway.
Aamodt, a 34-year-old Norwegian who's the most successful Alpine skier in Winter Olympics history, was on the start list, which includes three runs per skier _ a downhill leg during the day and two evening slalom runs. But Aamodt did not show up at the start.
"He will not run the combined, Norwegian coach Martin Andersen told The Associated Press. "His knee is too sore. He will now focus on the super-G on Saturday.
"He wants to wait because he is here for medals, the coach said. "And that's more important.
Aamodt has won seven Olympic medals, including the combined gold in the 2002 Salt Lake City Games.
"With three races in one day, it would have been too painful. Norway Alpine press attache Larso Bjornland said.
He hurt a ligament while landing awkwardly on the first jump of Sunday's downhill, causing his knee to swell, said Marius Arnesen, the Norwegian men's head coach. Aamodt still finished fourth, missing his eighth Olympic medal by six-hundredths of a second.
The jump where Aamodt was injured was not part of Tuesday's shortened combined downhill course.
"Now he'll rest, Bjornland said.
Aamodt captured his first two Olympic medals _ a gold and a bronze _ at age 20 in the 1992 Albertville Games. He won two silvers and a bronze at Lillehammer in 1994. His last two were gold in the super-G and combined four years ago.
Crashing in the downhill portion Tuesday were Filip Trejbal of the Czech Republic and Australian Jono Brauer, who slid off the course and tumbled into safety nets. A few minutes later, he skied by himself down the side of the course.
Copyright © 2006 The Associated Press