Swiss time was not running out in Russia today, with Sandro Viletta taking Olympic combined gold ahead of a cast of the usual suspects.
Sport: Alpine skiing
Event: Men’s combined (one run each of downhill and slalom)
Medalists: Sandro Viletta (Switzerland), Ivica Kostelic (Croatia), Christof Innerhofer (Italy)
SportsMyriad projections: Alexis Pinturault (France), Ted Ligety (USA), Aksel Lund Svindal (Norway)
How U.S. fared: Defending champion Bode Miller and world champion Ted Ligety were out of contention after the downhill. Miller, at one time a great slalom skier but not as much in recent years, was 12th after the downhill, 1.43 seconds off the lead. Ligety was 18th, 1.93 back.
Ligety wasn’t totally out of it, but he lost a full second to the early leader, Slovakia’s Adam Jampa, just on the bottom third of the slalom course. He knew that wouldn’t stand.
Miller gave up a lot of time early in the slalom. He pushed hard at the end but was only third with 11 seeded skiers to go.
Andrew Weibrecht, the surprise super-G medalist in 2010, straddled a gate in the slalom and slid a few meters on his stomach.
The surprise: 22-year-old Jared Goldberg. The first-time Olympian and second-year World Cup skier had a good downhill run, taking 15th. And then he made his way through the slalom course only 0.17 seconds slower than Ligety. Overall, that put him 0.10 ahead of Ted. Remember the name for the future.
Final results: Miller sixth, Goldberg 11th, Ligety 12th, Weibrecht DNF
What happened: Croatia’s Ivica Kostelic is always a contender in this one — no longer great in other disciplines but still enough of an all-rounder to figure in the mix here. And somehow, Kostelic’s father drew the assignment for setting the course. Again.
And the course chewed up a couple of the contenders. France’s Alexis Pinturault, who usually makes up time in the slalom, went out early. Italy’s Peter Fill straddled a gate.
Through 16 skiers in the slalom, early starter Adam Zampa still had the lead. Switzerland’s Sandro Viletta broke through with the second-fastest slalom, taking the lead by 1.14 seconds.
Before the top 10 from the downhill took the course, the tentative podium was Viletta, Zampa and Bode Miller. Surely that wouldn’t stand, right?
Switzerland’s Carlo Janka has a better resume than most, but he came across in fourth. Italy’s Christof Innerhofer, the downhill silver medalist and a World Championship runner-up in this event in 2011, cut quickly through the bottom of the course to take second, bumping Miller off the podium.
Then came Kostelic, skiing his father’s course. He got onto the tentative podium ahead of Innerhofer, but he was surprisingly cautious and didn’t catch Viletta.
Norway’s Aksel Lund Svindal is the greatest skier of the past several years. But the senior Kostelic’s course tripped him up in 2010, and he worked his way through it slowly, finishing out of the top five.
The last five seeded skiers faced the challenge of converting their strong downhill form into a fast run down this rough course that took out one-quarter of the skiers who had gone before. Austria’s Matthias Mayer, looking for a medal to add his surprising downhill gold, went slowly and missed the top 10. The Czech Republic’s Ondrej Bank looked like he was skiing in fear of the gates, finishing but missing the top five.
Last seeded skier: Could Norway’s Kjetil Jansrud make up for Svindal’s exit? He went out smoothly in nice control. He gave up time to Viletta’s splits but was still in contention for the podium until the very end, falling a half-second short of the podium.
Viletta doesn’t have the biggest name in the sport, but he’s not a shocking gold medalist. He was fifth in the 2013 World Championships and fourth in the lone World Cup race in this discipline so far this season. The other two medalists are no surprise — particularly when one’s father sets the course.