Downhill is bittersweet for Americans
Vail, CO Colorado
BEAVER CREEK – American Bode Miller won Friday’s Birds of Prey downhill race, but his teammates on the U.S. Ski Team who were trying to crank out fast runs didn’t perform as well as they thought they would.
Miller gave it everything he had Friday and said the risk of doing that was huge. He said he was nervous in the start gate because he knows what it takes to win the Birds of Prey downhill – he’s won it twice before in 2004 and 2006.
The risks worked out for Miller – he said he risked more than he ever has on this course – and his strategy easily could have backfired.
“There’s no backing off,” Miller said Friday after he knew he had secured the win. “I have experience with it so I know what to do, but it doesn’t make it any easier. It’s almost worse – you know what you have to do and the risk is so high. I would say there’s no advantage to that at all.”
But the experience did seem to pay off for Miller. His teammates, all of whom are younger, didn’t produce mistake-free runs.
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Ted Ligety, a giant-slalom specialist who is trying to become more of an overall skier, had the next-best performance from the Americans Friday with a 22nd-place finish. He had expected to finish in the top 20, however, after his training run Wednesday. He skipped training Thursday so he could practice giant slalom in Vail.
“I knew I could tighten it up a lot more from where I was the other day and I felt like I definitely did that,” Ligety said.
Ligety picked up eight World Cup points in Friday’s downhill. He was happy to score some points, but said eight points isn’t going to do a whole lot for him in the overall standings.
“But it was more just for the fun of it and trying to make a move in that direction (as an overall skier),” he said .”Downhill is obviously a goal of mine, but it’s not a realistic goal as far as trying to win stuff in the near future, so it’s just nice to kind of just make steps forward and score points.”
Friday’s run helps Ligety for today’s super-G race and for Sunday’s giant slalom, he said. He hopes to carry the confidence he built on the hill Friday into those races, but it’s tough to say a strong run Friday is enough.
The men came to Beaver Creek from Lake Louise, Alberta, last weekend with not much time for rest, Ligety said. The week is hectic, so rest becomes more and more important.
“I’m happy that it wasn’t a waste of my energy to come up here (for the downhill race),” Ligety said. “Getting 22nd place is definitely a good day.”
Ready for weekend
Marco Sullivan brought in the next-best time behind Ligety for the Americans, coming in 28th.
“I guess I’m happy with it,” Sullivan said. “You know, I’m not exuberant to get 28th, but some sections were really good and I can build on that for the coming weeks to build my confidence.”
Sullivan said he had a couple of big mistakes that just caused him to lose too much time, but he skied some sections really well.
“Coming off the top pitch, where it’s really important to carry your speed, I made a mistake there and I think that cost me quite a bit,” Sullivan said.
Sullivan had fun, though, and was still nothing but smiles after the race – probably because of the huge cheering section he had in the stands. He said he hopes to build on his super-G race for Saturday, especially because it’s in front of his fan club.
“I’m just looking forward to putting on a show for them,” Sullivan said.
Americans Erik Fisher, Andrew Weibrecht and Travis Ganong came in 29th, 32nd and 33rd, respectively. They’re hoping to improve for Saturday’s super G, although Fisher still wasn’t sure as of Friday afternoon if he would be racing super G.
Fisher was disappointed he didn’t crack the top 15, but said he’s looking forward to his next race.
Ganong wasn’t sure what happened Friday but said he felt good during his run. He thought he was racing fast, and was surprised to see his time when he crossed the finish line.
“I’m hungry now. I’m a little discouraged after today,” Ganong said. “I thought I skied really well and I was really slow on the top, I don’t know why, but on the bottom I had some really good stuff going on so I’m just fired up for tomorrow – just push it and see what I can do and hopefully get some redemption.”
Weibrecht, who has had two shoulder surgeries with the most recent being about a year ago, said he’s just trying to get back up to race speed. He felt good Friday, but thinks he’ll ski faster Saturday. He said he skied a lot of super G in the offseason and feels he can put together a good run in that discipline.
“My skiing was really pretty good – I was really happy with that,” Weibrecht said. “For the most part, I skied most of the course really well, I just had one really big mistake before coming onto the flats, which you know, there’s no chance to recover form that and pick up the speed.”
Community Editor Lauren Glendenning can be reached at 970-748-2983 or firstname.lastname@example.org.