When Bode Miller flashed across the finish line at the foot of the downhill run and stopped the clock on the giant screen, a disbelieving silence settled on the crowd. Miller hung his head. He was over half a second slower than the Austrian pacesetter Matthias Mayer. The veteran’s downhill dream was over.
Miller had dominated the final practice runs the day before. While others struggled under bright blue skies he flew down the demanding 3,500m course. Racer after racer said it – this was Miller’s to lose. Then on Sunday grey cloud filled the sky and he lost his sparkle. He finished a distant eighth, not even the highest American in the field and the gold went to Mayer, who won the Olympic title in 2min 6.23sec before he has a World Cup race to his name. Italy’s Christof Innerhofer took silver, 0.06sec slower.
It had begun according to the script. The 36-year-old, bidding to become the oldest winner of an Alpine medal, whistled through the first two split times quicker than anyone. But he slowed over the bottom half of the course and after he glanced up at the screen and clocked his time, he sank to his haunches and held his head in his hands.
There will be further chances to add to his six medals from five Games but this was his last shot at the blue riband title of the Winter Games. Miller blamed the conditions – when the sun was out, he said, it was Miller time, when it remained hidden it suited others.
“Visibility was the main thing when I went down, it had changed a lot from training runs when we had the blue bird,” said Miller. “The course conditions and the snow changed a lot, that was the biggest factor. I ski a bit more on the edge than the other guys and I don’t have as much tolerance for not being able to see the snow at the beginning of the turns.
“I need to know where the little bumps are.”