Bode Miller fastest in opening downhill training session
FEB 06, 2014 4:36a ET
KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia -- Bode Miller mastered the Olympic course on his very first run Thursday, leading the opening downhill training session.
A bronze medalist in the event four years ago, Miller clocked 2 minutes, 7.75 seconds down the Rosa Khutor piste, where he injured his left knee two years ago during the Sochi test event.
"Unfortunately they don't give you medals for training runs," Miller said. "If they did, I would be psyched today. But it certainly doesn't hurt to come out here and ski well first run. I just have to keep trimming time."
Patrick Kueng of Switzerland, who won the classic downhill in Wengen on home snow last month, was second, a slim 0.03 seconds behind. Matthias Mayer of Austria was third, 0.17 behind.
Marco Sullivan of the United States was fourth, although he was one of several skiers who missed gates on their way down. Christof Innerhofer of Italy was fifth, 0.69 behind, and should be a contender on a course that suits him.
Erik Guay of Canada and Aksel Lund Svindal of Norway, two other big favorites, were seventh and eighth, respectively.
Two more training sessions are scheduled before Sunday's race opens the Alpine events.
Miller cut his 2011-12 season short after his injury in Sochi and then had microfracture surgery and took all of last season off to let his knee properly heel. Showing off a slimmed down physique this season, Miller quickly regained his form and finished second in a World Cup giant slalom in December. Then he had two podium results on the famed Streif course in Kitzbuehel, Austria, last month.
But last weekend he banged up his right knee during a crash in a giant slalom in St. Moritz, Switzerland.
"It's still puffed up a little bit and a little bit sore," Miller said. "There's nothing wrong with it, just got banged hard."
Consequently, Miller was a bit tentative on the Sochi course's biggest jump, labeled the Russian Trampoline, which comes midway down.
"It's really bumpy and rattley," he said of the icy landing area. "That's one of the places where I went way out in the soft snow."
Overall, though, Miller was pleased to see that the course hadn't been altered much since the 2012 test event, in which several other skiers were also injured.
"They didn't dumb it down much, which is nice," said Miller, who finished fourth in the test downhill. "They didn't ice the top, which is understandable -- the turns are huge up there. The swing and turns would make it very tough for guys on top if it were icy. It would be better for me but that's fine. I still feel like I have the ability to ski that top and put time on guys.
"But once you come out of the chute all the way down they didn't take anything away. The speeds are up, the terrain is challenging and the jumps are big," added Miller, who showed off the U.S. team's new white racing suits. "There's a lot of different places where you can make mistakes and where it's really challenging -- especially linking sections together."
The training session was held in perfect conditions, under a bright sun and clear skies. The snow was grippy on top, icier in the middle section and softer at the bottom where the temperature was above the freezing.
All 61 racers who started reached the finish.