Austrian Matthias Mayer became the second member of his family with an Olympic medal, taking the men’s downhill and forcing Bode Miller to wait five days for another attempt to become the oldest Alpine ski medal winner.
Miller, a 36-year-old American, clipped two gates on a slippery course and finished eighth, 0.52 seconds behind today in Sochi. Mayer’s father, Helmut, won silver in the super-giant slalom at the 1988 Calgary Games.
“It wasn’t until I got on the podium that I realized I was the Olympic champion,” Mayer said. “It’s unbelievable. I’ve only dreamed of this, and now my dream has come true.”
Jamie Anderson won gold in the women’s slopestyle, giving the U.S. a sweep of the snowboard event. Sage Kotsenburg won the men’s gold yesterday.
Miller, who was a pre-race favorite after being fastest on two of the three training runs for the downhill, finished three spots behind U.S. teammate Travis Ganong.
“I made a mistake on the top, the top was where I made that bobble and didn’t have as much time in hand as I had in the training runs,” Miller said.
Mayer became the seventh Austrian to win Alpine skiing’s most prestigious crown. The country, which considers downhill skiing a national pastime, has won the Olympic title in seven of the 17 Winter Games in which it has been contested.
Mayer, 23, is the youngest gold medalist in the men’s downhill since 21-year-old Leonhard Stock of Austriafinished first at the 1980 Lake Placid Games.
Mayer — making his Olympic debut — raced down the 3.5-kilometer (2.17-mile) course in 2 minutes, 06.23 seconds.
Christof Innerhofer became the first Italian to win an Olympic medal in the men’s downhill in 38 years by capturing silver in 2:06.29, rolling on his back in the finish area with glee when he saw his medal-winning time.Norway’s Kjetil Jansrud took bronze.
Miller put his hands on his helmet and stared at the ground for about 10 seconds after realizing his time.
“It’s a little bit of a bummer that he wasn’t able to pull through today,” said Ganong, who was fifth in 2:06.64. “He had one mistake on this pretty critical turn that goes into a flat section. If you lose your speed there, it’s just a losing battle until the finish. He crushed the top.”
Miller, who became the sixth American to compete in five Winter Games, plans to race in at least three of the four other Alpine events in Sochi — including the super combined on Feb. 14 in which he is the defending champion.
A medal in Sochi would allow Miller to surpass Kjetil Andre Aamodt of Norway, who holds the mark as the oldest winner after taking the super-giant slalom at the 2006 Games at the age of 34.
“This can be a tough one to swallow today having skied so well in the training runs and then come in and be way out of the medals,” Miller said. “I’ve just got to steel myself for the rest.”
The start of the race was delayed 15 minutes because of a gondola malfunction.
In the women’s slopestyle, Anderson had a winning score of 95.25 on her final run. Finland’s Enni Rukajarvi took silver and Britain’s Jenny Jones got bronze.
Switzerland’s Dario Cologna won gold in the men’s skiathlon. Marcus Hellner of Sweden was second and Martin Johnsrud Sundby of Norway took third, edging Russian Maxim Vylegzhanin by a tenth of a second. The first half of the 30-kilometer race is done in classic cross-country style, while the remainder is done freestyle.
Five more medal events are set for later today, including women’s speedskating and men’s ski jumping. Norway leads the medal count so far with two golds and five overall, while the U.S. is second with two golds and three overall.
Russia still does not have a medal. The Sochi Games are the first since 1998 in which the host nation did not win a medal on the opening day.
The International Olympic Committee said today it had no evidence of any collusion between U.S. and Russian officials in a figure skating event.
French newspaper L’Equipe, citing an unidentified Russian coach, reported on its website yesterday that American and Russian judges would collude to allow home squad wins in the pairs and team events while the American team of Meryl Davis and Charlie White would take the gold in ice dancing.
U.S. figure skating officials denied the story, calling it “categorically false.” IOC spokesman Mark Adams said today that the IOC would wait to hear from the International Skating Union.
“We would treat it as a bit of gossip that is groundless,” Adams said in a news conference. “The evidence would go to the federation first. If it’s worth taking on, then it would come to the IOC.”