Sochi recap: Alpine skiing, men’s downhill

The glamorous downhill event turns up some surprises, and this was no exception. Matthias Mayer, who had never won a World Cup race and never finished higher than fifth in downhill, is the gold medalist.

Date: 9- Feb

Sport: Alpine skiing

Event: Men’s downhill

Medalists: Matthias Mayer (Austria), Christof Innerhofer (Italy), Kjetil Jansrud (Norway)

SportsMyriad projections: Aksel Lund Svindal (Norway), Erik Guay (Canada), Dominik Paris (Italy)

How U.S. fared: Bode Miller hasn’t had the best track record in recent years, which is why he wasn’t a projected medalist. He did well in recent weeks and in training here, but he didn’t quite find the speed today, finishing eighth.

Overshadowed by the Bode hype — Travis Ganong took a stunning fifth. He had never finished higher than sixth in any World Cup race, never higher than seventh in downhill.

Steven Nyman was the first skier on the course and took 27th overall. Marco Sullivan placed 30th.

What happened: After Norway’s Aksel Lund Svindal, the medals were difficult to pick. But Svindal, the 18th skier to start, lost time in the middle and stood third at the finish line behind Austria’s Matthias Mayer and fellow Norwegian Kjetil Jansrud.

Two skiers later, Italy’s Christof Innerhofer took aim down the treacherous slope. He led by more than a half-second through the first split but steadily lost time and finished just 0.06 seconds behind Mayer.

Most of the other contenders didn’t make a strong run at the top places. The exception was 36-year-old Swiss veteran Didier Defago, who held a brief lead near the top of the course but dropped well back and finished 14th.

Innerhofer is the least surprising medalist. He took a medal of each color at the 2011 World Championships, including downhill bronze, and he won three World Cup downhills last season. Jansrud is the 2010 silver medalist in giant slalom and has little to show in major speed events, though he has a few scattered World Cup podiums.

Only two skiers failed to finish the course — among the top 30 starters, only France’s Johan Clarey.

 

Quote: “This is unbelievable. I thought maybe in a few years I could dream of this sort of achievement. It was really cool and my family will be excited.” – Matthias Mayer

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