Didier Defago triumphs on the turbulent course.
The men’s race took place on Whistler’s Dave Murray Downhill run and
after five days of new snow and rain and then freezing overnight tempera-
tures just before the race, it was a washboard. Already full of huge jumps,
consecutive rollers and sudden turns on landings, racers’ skis rattled like
loose pebbles in a can from start to finish.
Before the race, half of the men’s field pulled off a full training run before
weather set in, but the only official training took place four days earlier on
a shortened course that finished at the slalom start.
And it was Swiss veteran Dider Defago who prevailed through the ele-
ments. The 32-year-old, whose only other big international medal came
a whopping 14 years ago when he won the world juniors super G gold,
flew down the Dave Murray in 1 minute, 54.31 seconds. But the pack be-
hind him on the results board was thick — and close. The 2009 World
Cup overall winner and multiple world champion medalist, Aksel Lund
Svindal, earned his first Olympic medal, taking the silver just 0.07 sec-
onds behind Defago. One seemingly transformed Bode Miller claimed the
bronze, 0.09 off the winning pace.
The race was as action-packed as anyone could hope for an Olympic
downhill, with racers going up on one ski, tearing straight through gates
and crashing, though none were seriously injured. The top 15 racers all
finished within the same second. The race was exciting for more than
just the spectators, of course. Miller, unusually forthcoming after entire
seasons of eluding questions, was almost enthusiastic after the race. He
said that the extended wait period leading up the race made it that much
more thrilling, as did the course’s overnight transformation.
“They injected the first few turns, they injected down the steep pitch and
into the Toilet Bowl, there was a lot of changes and maybe that helped
build a little of the anxiety and the excitement,” said the 32-year-old New
Hampshire native. “It was clear that this was not a World Cup; everyone
was feeling something different. It was cool for me; it was sort of what I