Winter Olympics: Bode Miller returns to downhill Saturday
By NOAH TRISTER
AP Sports Writer
VANCOUVER, British Columbia — Bode Miller, an afterthought?
The enigmatic American skier won’t hear of such a thing.
“That’s a completely ridiculous idea at the Olympics. Everyone is on the radar,” Miller said this week. “I’m prepared and fired up. Hopefully it pops up on the radar here and there.”
Amid all the anticipation of Vancouver’s opening ceremony — and the concern about Lindsey Vonn’s leg — Miller is almost a forgotten man at the 2010 Olympics. But that all could change Saturday when he competes in the downhill, an event he ruled as world champion back in 2005.
Now he’s considered a dark horse, but NBC is planning to include Alpine skiing’s fastest event in its prime time coverage, and that will mean a shot at redemption for one of the Olympics’ most famous underachievers.
Miller was on everyone’s radar four years ago in Turin. He had won world championships in the downhill and super-G the year before, and the giant slalom and combined in 2003. He appeared on track for more of the same at the Olympics.
Instead, Miller’s Olympics were a debacle, remembered more for his partying off the slopes than his skiing. His best finish was fifth in the downhill, and he faded quickly after Turin. He considered retiring before deciding to take another shot in Vancouver.
Miller isn’t exactly a favorite this year. He finished eighth in the downhill at last year’s world championship, and he’ll have to contend with opponents like former world champion Michael Walchhofer of Austria and hometown hopeful Manuel Osborne-Paradis of Canada.
And then there’s the weather. The women’s training session was canceled Thursday, but the men managed to finish theirs despite limited visibility. That means the downhill should start as scheduled Saturday, but there are no guarantees.
American Ted Ligety was grateful to be able to size up the course.
“I am just getting more comfortable at it,” Ligety said. “I had no idea how turny it really was. It runs a little faster than I would have guessed and I’m liking the technical aspect of it.”
Saturday is the first day of medal events at the Vancouver Games. The competition actually begins Friday with some ski jump qualifying, and then there’s the opening ceremony Friday night in the 60,600-seat BC Place. The first indoor opening ceremony at an Olympics will involve all the usual suspense over who will light the flame.
“Wayne Gretzky,” speculated Canadian Alpine skier Tyler Nella. “You’ve got to have him.”
Rain or shine, the hosts are ready for their Olympics. “Go Canada Go” is on display in windows all over Vancouver, and the home team hopes to finish near the top of the medals table — a dramatic improvement after Canada failed to win a single gold medal while hosting the 1988 Winter Games and the 1976 Summer Games.
Osborne-Paradis could change that trend as early as Saturday. He finished 13th in the downhill in Turin, and he’s third in the 2009-10 world cup rankings. Osborne-Paradis is hopeful the pressure of racing at home won’t be a negative.
“It hit me when I first arrived in Vancouver,” he said. “But my nerves have really settled down. It feels like just another race.”
In addition to the men’s downhill, NBC will feature plenty of speedskating Saturday. American Shani Davis will compete in the 5,000 meters, and five-time medalist Apolo Anton Ohno will race for the U.S. in the short-track 1,500.