After a disappointing showing in the downhill event that saw him finish off the podium in eighth place, American skier Bode Miller was determined to turn things around in the super combined.
Unfortunately, Miller continued to struggle and fell short of the podium once again at the 2014 Winter Games on Friday. A solid slalom time wasn't good enough to get Miller onto the podium, as he finished sixth, with a combined time of two minutes, 46.60 seconds.
Swiss skier Sandro Viletta took home the gold, and Croatian Ivica Kostelic won the silver while Italian Christof Innerhofer won the bronze.
Miller won gold in the super combined at the 2010 Vancouver Games, which incorporates both downhill and slalom runs. Because of that, he was viewed as a threat to reach the podium again in Sochi, but the disappointment of failing to medal in the downhill seemed to carry over to Friday's event.
Miller's best World Cup finish in the super combined during the current season was ninth, so perhaps expecting a medal was a bit optimistic. He is better known for his excellence in downhill rather than slalom, and that ultimately proved to be his downfall in a competition that requires excellence across both disciplines.
Miller's poor showing in the super combined may have been a self-fulfilling prophecy considering his feeling regarding the race heading in.
According to David Leon Moore of USA Today, Miller didn't believe the format was fair because the snow is different depending on your start position: "If by the luck of the draw you draw (bib number) 5, you're running 45 minutes to an hour before somebody who's ranked two points behind you who draws 29. In these conditions, the course really changes a lot in an hour."
That wasn't Miller's first complaint in Sochi; he had issues during the downhill event as well.
He blamed poor vision for his eighth-place finish, and he lamented not getting Lasik eye surgery prior to the Olympics as originally planned, per Moore:
I was supposed to get an eye surgery earlier this year. We just never found a time to do it because the race schedule was so tight. We were pretty pissed off looking back that we hadn't found a time to do that. For me, my vision is critical. When the light's perfect, I can ski with any of the best guys in the world. When it goes out, my particular style suffers more than the guys who are more stable and don't do as much in the middle of the turn.
While it can be argued he is making reasonable points, ESPN's Michael Wilbon felt Miller was making excuses, according to Pardon the Interruption on Twitter:
Excuses or not, Miller now finds himself in a difficult position. Two possible medals have gone by the wayside, so he needs to do something in order to salvage his time in Sochi.
It would be tough to blame Miller for resting on his laurels considering the success he has had in past Olympics, but he still has an opportunity to do something special in Sochi. With the super-G, slalom and giant slalom still remaining on the Olympic slate, the possibility remains for Miller to finish the 2014 Winter Olympics with three medals to his credit.
The slalom events are not Miller's specialty; however, he won silver in the super-G at the 2010 Winter Games and silver in giant slalom at the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics. Also, Miller has reached the podium in both super-G and giant slalom during the World Cup season, which at least puts him in the mix.
Miller's Olympic career suggests that he is an extremely streaky skier who feeds off momentum. If that rings true, then he needs to have some measure of success in order to avoid a tailspin.
The pressure is very much on Miller right now due to all of the hype he carried with him into Sochi, and while he had an opportunity to quell that on Friday, he came up short.
Unless something changes significantly over the next week or so, these Olympics could prove disastrous for Miller just like the 2006 Winter Games in Turin, Italy.
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