It’s a bird, it’s a plane...it’s Didier Cuche, soaring off the Golden Eagle jump on the Birds of Prey course.
The U.S. got a pair of promising fourth place finishes from Bode Miller and
Ted Ligety, and a fantastic set of speed finishes from Andrew Weibrecht, who
may have started his last downhill from back in the pack.
Janka, though, was incredible, especially considering he missed an enormous stretch of the preparation period when he caught a mysterious illness
doctors were unable to diagnose. It appears to have been similar to mononucleosis as he said it left him “with a low battery.” His results indicate the
battery is fully recharged.
There were some controversies as well — a season-ending, and potentially
career-ending, set of injuries to France’s Pierre-Emmanuel Dalcin and a ruling that prevented Croatian star Ivica Kostelic from competing in the combined.
Super Combined, December 4
The old racing adage says, “If you want it to snow, schedule a downhill,” and
sure enough, along came a snowstorm just in time for the downhill training
on Wednesday, December 2.
What racers saw was a course varied more than usual by course setting.
Training winner Michael Walchhofer said he liked what he found.
“It is good [that] Schmalzl [FIS course setter Helmet Schmalzl] put out
the gates a little bit around the Pumphouse,” said Walchhofer. “It’s a little bit
slower because on this slope you become so fast that I think it was very clever
With their faces masked in a wide variety of ways to prevent frostbite, the
racers expected the snow to be slow. It wasn’t. It didn’t, frankly, resemble
much of any surface they had previously witnessed. Bode Miller, still way
behind his contemporaries in terms of speed training, said the surface was
“really dense and unusual. Not icy, but really heavy and hard and a lot of our
set-ups weren’t right for it.”
There was a price to pay as the bulk of the skis used in training sustained
burned bases from running at high speed on the cold, dense snow. One tech
rep estimated a minimum of 50 percent of the skis would have to be returned
to their respective factories for recondition. All of the skis sustained some
level of damage.
The Beaver Creek giant slalom podium (left to right):
Benjamin Raich, Carlo Janka and Aksel Lund Svindal.
Once again, the Marco Sullivan Fan Club was in full force.
As the delays starting coming in, coaches sent racers back to their rooms
for naps or video games. When the weather cleared, as forecasted, racers
scrambled to get back into racing clothes and to the hill. What they got was
an abbreviated, half-downhill starting near the mid-point of the Birds of Prey
course, but also a good taste of most of the jumps.
Thursday, December 3, dawned clear, windless and frigid, providing excel-
lent racing conditions and the first opportunity to run the full length of the
Birds of Prey course.
Friday was even colder (records fell) and included an experiment when a
separate downhill training run was held in addition to the first competition
(the combined). The training run preceded the two-run race and that put rac-
ers on course early, before the sun had a chance to generate any semblance of
heat — or much in the way of good light.
American Steven Nyman, who finished 14th in the super combined, took
a detour on course when his skis “just stopped turning.” He said the dam-
age sustained from sub-zero temperatures and snow surfaces had run the full