Carlo Janka leads 1st run of Olympic giant slalom
AP Sports Writer
WHISTLER, British Columbia – Carlo Janka of Switzerland led the first run of the Olympic giant slalom race Tuesday, while Bode Miller skied out in his pursuit of a record fourth Alpine medal.
Janka, the world champion in GS, was timed in 1 minute, 17.27 seconds with a second run to follow in the afternoon.
Miller almost crashed in the top half of the course and then couldn’t correct his line coming out of a right-hand gate in the second half.
“Bode skied great up top and then went down on his hip, made a recovery like only Bode can but came in late to the next panel and hooked a gate with his hand,” said Sasha Rearick, U.S. men’s head coach.
“He then made another spectacular recovery and went straight back into hammering the line. He was pushing to make up time. He would have liked to be in there, but he was skiing with passion,” Rearick said.
The 32-year-old Miller, from Franconia, N.H.., has already won three medals in the Vancouver Games – gold in super-combined, silver in super-G and bronze in downhill – and was trying to become the first Alpine skier to win four in the same Olympics. His last chance will be in the slalom scheduled for Saturday.
Romed Baumann of Austria was second after the first run in the GS, 0.02 second behind Janka, and Norway’s Aksel Lund Svindal was 0.16 back in third.
Svindal already has a gold medal in super-G and a silver in downhill. He lost time on the top half of the course but used his speed skills to make up a half-second on the steep final slope.
Svindal said he sat back on his skis early on, but then “I felt like I skied the way I wanted to.”
“It seems like it’s going to be another tight race,” the big Norwegian said.
Pre-race favorite Ted Ligety of the United States trailed Janka by 0.60 in eighth place.
Ligety said the gap “is not enough for those guys to feel comfortable about it.”
“I’m happy with where I am,” he said. “To only be six-tenths out with some mistakes in the flats is OK.”
Janka put down a solid, focused run two days after walking away angrily from the super-combined event where he finished fourth.
The 23-year-old Swiss arrived at the Olympics second in the World Cup overall standings and was predicted by many to be a breakout star.
Janka won a giant slalom at Beaver Creek, Colo., last December on a weekend where he swept all three events, and won the classic downhill at Wengen, Switzerland, last month.
But he was a disappointing 11th in the Olympic downhill and eighth in super-G before missing a super-combi medal by 0.22 second, in a race won by Miller on Sunday.
The powerhouse Austrian men’s team was still seeking its first Alpine medal at Whistler after winning eight in Turin four years ago. The 24-year-old Baumann has never finished in the top-3 of a World Cup giant slalom race, and has a single career victory, in a super-combined at Sestriere, Italy, last season.
Austria also has Marcel Hirscher in fifth place, 0.21 behind Janka, and World Cup overall leader Benjamin Raich 0.39 back in sixth.
Raich is going for a fifth career Olympic medal, which would make him the most decorated Austrian Alpine skier in games history. Hermann Maier and Stephan Eberharter, both now retired, also have four.
Max Blardone, a GS specialist, was 0.20 behind Janka in fourth and was Italy’s best chance for a first Alpine medal at Whistler. Host Canada and France are among other strong Alpine nations which have been shut out in the first six events.
Two U.S. skiers were making their Olympic debuts.
Tommy Ford of Bend, Ore., was 1.83 seconds behind, and Jake Zamansky of Aspen, Colo., had 2.58 to make up.
“I felt like I could go faster,” said the 20-year-old Ford. “But it was good to just put in a nice clean run for my first Olympics,”
The weather-affected Alpine program will be back on track with the completion of the men’s giant slalom. The race was originally scheduled for Sunday but was bumped two days to accommodate the delayed men’s super-combined.
Whistler has enjoyed a week-long dry spell, although racers skied in overcast conditions Tuesday.
Some rain and snow is forecast for Wednesday when the women’s giant slalom is scheduled.
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