Miller in gold-medal form
KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia — Bode Miller is at his fifth Olympics and already owns a U.S.-record five Alpine medals, so in many ways, he certainly already has, as he put it Thursday, “been here and done this.”
While Miller’s past accomplishments, plus propensity for saying whatever is on his mind, might have made him an athlete to keep an eye on during the Sochi Games anyway, his skiing still can grab headlines. Miller delivered the fastest opening downhill training run ahead of Sunday’s race, finishing in two minutes, 7.75 seconds.
“He’s been fast this whole season, but especially these last three weeks,” said Aksel Lund Svindal of Norway, who tied for eighth in Thursday’s training and, like Miller, won a medal of each color at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics. “And this is also a course that should be good for him. So I’m not surprised.”
The women’s downhill training was interrupted for about an hour while the lip of a dangerous jump was flattened by machines. Only three racers went down the hill before the delay, and one got hurt. Anna Fenninger of Austria turned in the best time, 1:41.73, followed by Fraenzi Aufdenblatten of Switzerland and Julia Mancuso of the U.S.
Mancuso is the sort of athlete who says the sorts of things the folks who run the Olympics might like — and perhaps expect — to hear about participating.
“I just still really get excited,” she said. “My Olympic experience is really exciting, and I just get fueled by the energy, and it doesn’t matter if it’s my first time or my fourth time.”
And then there’s Miller.
“Not to take anything away from the Olympics,” he said, a pair of sunglasses perched atop the “USA” blue wool cap on his head, “but it just isn’t the same after I’ve done it as many times as I have.”
He made his debut at the 1998 Nagano Games, won a pair of silvers four years later in Salt Lake City, boasted about his late-night partying while failing to even finish three of five events in Turin in 2006, then left Vancouver in 2010 with a gold in super combined, silver in super-G and bronze in downhill.
The first three starters in the women’s run soared too high off the jump down the home stretch. Daniela Merighetti of Italy hurt both knees during her too-hard landing. They were among those complaining that the forerunners who went down the slope to check on the course weren’t going fast enough to really test whether that jump would be too difficult for the competitors.
Hannah Kearney’s bid for another Olympic gold medal in women’s moguls is off to a flawless start.
The defending champion cruised through qualifying, posting a score of 23.05, well clear of Canada’s Chloe Dufour-Lapointe for the top spot.
Justine Dufour-Lapointe took third, and Maxime Dufour-Lapointe finished eighth, assuring all three sisters a spot in the finals.
The top 10 finishers automatically advanced to the finals, with the remaining competitors returning for a second qualifying run on Saturday to fill out the rest of the field.
Eliza Outrim finished fourth to move on to the finals, but her U.S. teammate, Heidi Kloser, did not compete after sustaining a leg injury in warm-ups.
Team figure skating
SOCHI, Russia — Thrilling their countrymen on the first day of competition at the Sochi Olympics, Russia took the lead after the pairs and men’s short programs in the new event of team figure skating.
Three-time Olympic medalist Evgeni Plushenko finished second to Japan’s Yuzuru Hanyu in the men’s portion, then world champions Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov convincingly won the pairs.
The combined 19 points — 10 for first place, nine for second — lifted the hosts ahead of Canada, which earned nine points in pairs from Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford, and eight in men’s from three-time world champion Patrick Chan.