Bode Miller came into the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics as a clear favorite in the men’s downhill. For Miller, winning would erase many disappointments in the past. He won the bronze medal in the event at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, but the gold medal in the signature event in men’s skiing has always eluded him.
It did once again on Sunday as well.
There was an American in the top five, but it wasn’t Miller. That honor went to Travis Ganong, who finished fifth. The gold medal went to 23-year old Austrian Matthias Mayer. Christof Innerhofer of Italy won the silver and Kjetil Jansrud of Norway captured the bronze. Miller will only walk away from Sochi wondering what could have been.
After Saturday’s training run, Miller was clearly the man to beat on Sunday. The downhill course at the Rosa Khutor Alpine Resort had already bared its teeth for the first several skiers who ended up crashing. In fact, almost half of the early competitors were unable to successfully navigate their way through the extremely treacherous course.
By the time Miller was ready for his training run, it was clear that the course was going to be the ultimate winner, and it would take a special run to master the hill. Miller provided just that, completing his training run 0.66 seconds faster than anyone else, making him the clear favorite for Sunday’s final.
If there was ever a course that seemed like a fit, it would definitely be the one that Miller seemed to master in training at Sochi. Miller has always thrived on treacherous courses, taking chances when others seemingly played it safe.
In fact, Norwegian skier Aksel Lund Svindal, another of the favorites to win, told reporters that Miller was the man to beat.
“Is Bode the favorite?” Svindal said. “I think so. He’s been the best skier on the mountain. Me and maybe three other guys can beat him tomorrow. But we’ll see.”
Svindal, like Miller, also failed to medal in the final on Sunday. For Miller, there were several mistakes that marred his run, resigning him to a disappointing finish. Normally one who starts and finishes well, Miller was true to form through the first two intervals. He was ahead of Mayer’s pace by a full quarter of a second heading into the latter portion of his run.
However, by the third interval, Miller had lost the edge, now with just a 0.02 second lead over Mayer. But with his much slower time mid-race, it was clear that Miller had lost any advantage he may have gained. By the time he crossed the finish line, he was a full 0.52 seconds behind Mayer and already out of medal contention.
Miller has certainly put together a career that’s been magnificent in many way. He has five Olympic medals, four World Championship wins and two overall World Cup victories to his credit. But the fact that he wasn’t able to capture a gold medal in the men’s signature event is certainly a major disappointment.
Miller will have another chance to add to his overall medal count later this week when he competes in the Super Combined, and a chance to defend his gold medal won at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver.
While it will certainly take away the sting of not medaling in the downhill if he successfully defends his Olympic gold this Friday, Miller will still likely look back on his career and wonder what could have been.