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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Thursday: No fooling around here

Today’s headlines:

Soccer: The U.S. women’s team beat Mexico 1-0. At least, we think that’s what happened. The snow made it a little hard to see. Can’t wait for U.S. Soccer to post the highlights. In the meantime, the Salt Lake Tribune story includes a photo gallery worth checking out. (U.S. Soccer match report)

MMA: Kenny Florian took a comfortable third-round submission win to spoil Takanori Gomi’s long-awaited — probably too long, unfortunate — UFC debut in the main event at UFC Fight Night. Roy Nelson won the battle of big and tall against Stefan Struve, ducking under a punch from “The Skyscraper” and answering with a knockout shot. Florian and Nelson took the night’s submission and knockout bonuses, while Ross Pearson and Dennis Siver took the fight of the night honors. Jorge Rivera had the best overall performance of the night with a convincing win over Nate Quarry that didn’t last long into the second round.  (MMA Fighting Stances)

Soccer: Not to judge a city’s politics from afar, but it looks like a one-week delay in a vote on the Houston Dynamo’s stadium deal has spawned a bit of petty sniping. (Houston Chronicle)

Alpine skiing: You didn’t expect Bode Miller to make his mind about next season anytime soon, did you? (AP)

Soccer: U.S. player Marcus Tracy expects to miss the rest of the club season in Denmark with a knee injury. (AP)

Today’s reads:

Volleyball: Need to catch up with any of the 157 U.S. women’s players going to overseas club teams? They’re rounded up on one staggering roundup. (USA Volleyball – PDF)

MMA: The toughest part of getting into the house on The Ultimate Fighter might be dealing with solitary confinement in a hotel before the first bout, according to this compelling blog entry from contestant Court McGee. (Sherdog)

Soccer: Inside Minnesota Soccer compiled a comprehensive preview of the USSF Division II (shotgun marriage between USL and NASL) season, with one writer per team. Familiar names include Steve Ralston, Christian Gomez, Louis Crayton and Steve Cronin. Future MLS clubs Vancouver and Portland have kept a lot of players from year to year. Miami, which has Gomez and Abe Thompson, is trying to rival the MetroStars/Red Bulls for roster turnover. (Inside Minnesota Soccer)