Switzerland's Sandro Viletta captured a surprise gold in the men's super combined skiing final, upsetting tournament favourites such as Ivica Kostelic, Bode Miller and Ted Ligety with an excellent display to top the podium.
Viletta stood strong to triumph in a competition that was defined by mistakes and falls on the slalom run, a course that got the better of many after intense downhill action earlier in the day.
Here's a look at the top 10 after the slalom (full leaderboard here):
|Men's Super Combined Final Results|
|Position||Name||Country||Time after Run 2|
|7.||Ondrej Bank||Czech Republic||+1.64|
|=8.||Aksel Lund Svindal||Norway||+1.68|
Viletta's win is made all the more remarkable considering he has never managed a top-three finish in a World Cup or major championship, as reported by David Leon Moore of USA Today.
Although his downhill time of one minute, 54.88 seconds left plenty of work to do—placing Viletta in 14th place at the halfway stage—he pushed hard during his slalom stint.
This was a fast course, one that appeared extra slippery under the Sochi heat, a factor that ensured the competition was open for all.
Viletta pushed himself to a time of 50.32, the second-fastest slalom run of the session, and just managed to overcome the threat of Kostelic, who lingered 0.34 seconds behind the gold-medal winner.
This result amounted to yet another moment of frustration for the Croatian, who narrowly missed out on Olympic gold for the third time, per insidethegames:
Christof Innerhofer achieved bronze with a decent overall display, setting a combined time of 2:45.67. He matched Kostelic's slalom run at 51.37 and was slightly held back by finishing eighth in the downhill.
It was an event of major disappointment for Team USA, who could have reasonably expected to secure two medals prior to the action.
Defending champion Miller rued a mistake during his downhill run and headed into the second half in 12th. The 36-year-old couldn't make up time with a stunning slalom run and finished seventh in the second event, sixth overall.
As reported by Moore in an alternate report, Miller was unhappy with conditions in Sochi prior to the contest:
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.
Despite winning the Wengen title last month, Ligety also failed to impress with a regrettable overall finishing position of 12th. He appeared to be holding back during the downhill section—finishing 18th at his first run—and then suffered a patchy slalom leg to miss out on the top 10.
Frenchman Alexis Pinturault was largely expected to challenge for a medal, but he crashed out during his slalom run and failed to finish. He was in the perilous position of 23rd after his downhill attempt, signalling a disappointing day all round.
Viletta's win maintains a run of surprise results in the Russian snow. Both skiing and snowboarding events have been defined by American disappointment, as favourites such as Shaun White, Kelly Clark, Miller and Ligety have failed to win gold so far.
Miller is under great pressure to perform and is unlikely to get another shot at Olympic glory after Sochi. The aging star needs to quickly clear his head, overcome his course concerns and focus his game ahead of the giant slalom run on Feb. 19.
If he doesn't, we might well see another underdog ski away with the gold around their neck.
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