By Andrew Dampf
The Associated Press
KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia — The men’s super-combined today opens a stretch of three Alpine skiing races in three days at the Sochi Olympics.
The women’s super-G is scheduled for Saturday, followed by the men’s super-G on Sunday.
If all goes according to plan — and there are no warm weather-related postponements — Monday will be an off day for the Alpine squads.
Here are five things to know about Alpine skiing entering Friday’s super-combined, which consists of one downhill run and one slalom leg:
Bode’s slalom: Defending super-combined champion Bode Miller has been terrific in downhill training — and less so in last weekend’s downhill race, finishing eighth. The American knows he’s going to have to turn in a real strong first leg today in order to have some margin for error in the slalom run.
“Obviously, I don’t have the same time in the slalom this year or the last five years as the slalom guys, which is the real disadvantage,” said the 36-year-old Miller, who could become the oldest Alpine medalist in Olympic history.
Ligety split: Ted Ligety of the U.S. won the combined gold medal at the Turin Games in 2006, back when the event included two slalom runs, in addition to the downhill. He also won the world title in super-combined last season, and he’s tied for the current World Cup standings lead in the discipline.
So he’s setting his sights high today
“I want to be able to try to get on the podium or win. I think that’s well within my grasp, if I ski well,” said Ligety, who’s from Park City, Utah.
Mayer the medalist: Today, for the first time in his career, Austria’s Matthias Mayer will be seeking a second consecutive race victory. That’s because he’d never finished first in 65 top-level events until winning the Sochi Olympic downhill last weekend.
Although he didn’t train as he wanted to ahead of today’s super-combined, what with partying and media obligations, that’s OK.
“Of course, it was a little bit exhausting for me,” he said with a laugh. “But I feel good now and I’m ready for races.”
New Norwegian: With Aksel Lund Svindal and Kjetil Jansrud already established stars, Aleksander Aamodt Kilde is the rookie of Norway’s speed team.
While super-G is his favorite discipline, the 21-year-old Kilde also skis downhill, super-combi and giant slalom.
However, his slalom training took a hit when he broke his left hand a couple of weeks ago.
“I haven’t skied that much because of my hand,” Kilde said. “But I’ve done some free skiing and easy training and it’s been OK.”
Kilde’s results in the three downhill training sessions for the super-combi were second, fourth, and fifth, respectively.
Riesch rests: Maria Hoefl-Riesch started these games off with a gold in super-combined then had a disappointing 13th in downhill — the first time in seven career Olympic races that she failed to finish in the top 10.
Now, Hoefl-Riesch is counting on having her energy back for Saturday’s super-G.
“She was quite tired yesterday,” Germany women’s head coach Thomas Stauffer said. “Also mentally down after she didn’t succeed as she wanted. She took a day off today and I think tomorrow we’ll train a little bit and then she will be ready for Saturday.”
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