Bode Miller seventh in downhill portion of super combined; Norway's Svindal leads
The United States alpine team has some work to do if it is going to earn a medal in its sixth consecutive Olympic race.
Norway's Aksel Lund Svindal, who already had garnered gold and silver at the Vancouver Games, won the downhill portion of Sunday's super combined. Svindal's time was 1 minute, 53.15, which was .39 better than Dominik Paris of Italy.
Bode Miller of the U.S. finished seventh, .76 back of Svindal, and Ted Ligety, the defending Olympic championship in combined, is in 15th place and 1.91 seconds back.
The super combined is a morning downhill time added to one run of slalom. The change in format, from two runs of slalom to one, likely helps Miller's medal chances and hurts Ligety.
Ligety is better at gate races. Four years ago, he was 32nd in the downhill but used two runs of slalom to make up the difference and win the Olympic gold.
"I have to attack hard," Ligety said after his downhill run. "I've got a lot of time to make up to get on the podium. I'm going to have to go hard."
Miller began his career as a brilliant slalom racer but, in recent years, has had trouble even completing two-run slalom races. In the new format, Miller has only to finish one run, although making up. 76 on Svindal isn't going to be easy.
"I feel good," said Miller, who has a silver and bronze in the first two men's races. "My slalom has been setting up pretty well."
The racers to watch in the afternoon are the top-10 downhill finishers who are slalom specialists. Switzerland's Silvan Zurbriggen, who stands sixth in the downhill, .73 off the lead, is the No. 4-ranked slalom skier in the world. Ivica Kostelic of Croatia, ninth in the downhill, and 1.05 off the pace, is ranked No. 3 in slalom.
Svindal has failed to finish eight of his last nine World Cup slalom races, but those are two-run events.
-- Chris Dufresne, in Whistler, Canada
Photo: Bode Miller competes in the downhill portion of the super combined. Credit: Luca Bruno, AP.