Olympics

Austrian Mayer wins Olympic downhill gold; Guay 10th

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CBC
2/9/2014 5:36:51 AM
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Matthias Mayer of Austria won the Olympic downhill in Sochi on Sunday.

Mayer finished the Rosa Khutor course in 2 minutes, 6.23 seconds. Christof Innerhofer of Italy won silver and Kjetil Jansrud of Norway won bronze.

Canada's Erik Guay finished 10th. Teammates Ben Thompson, Jan Hudec and Manuel Osborne-Paradis finished 19th, 21st and 25th respectively.

Pre-race favorite Aksel Lund Svindal fourth and American Bode Miller finished eighth.

Mayer was one of the first contenders to come down, with the No. 11 bib, and he hardly celebrated when he reached the finish. But his smile grew wider as all the favorites failed to catch him.

Miller was one of the fastest skiers on the top section but lost speed when he hit a gate on a right turn a bit further down.

"He pinched it off and went into the gate," Italian skier Dominik Paris said. "It was a critical section there."

After crossing the finish, Miller sat down on his skis with a look of bewilderment on his face. That was understandable, considering that the American had dominated two of the three official training sessions.

Svindal was also fast on top but lost speed when his large frame went soaring into the air over the big jumps lining the rest of the course.

Mayer is short and compact and appeared more aerodynamic over the jumps.

Mayeris one of the more surprising gold medalists in the sport's marquee race, as he has never before finished better than fifth in a World Cup downhill.

But Mayer led the second downhill training session and was third in the opening session.

His father, Helmut, won a silver medal in the super-G at the 1988 Calgary Games.

Mayer was not even supposed to be Austria's top contender but he was thrust into that position when Hannes Reichelt was sidelined with back surgery after winning the prestigious Kitzbuehel downhill on home snow two weeks ago.

Ski-loving Austria has won more men's downhills at the Olympics than any other nation, six of 17, but the last came in 2002 from Fritz Strobl, who happens to be from the same region in southern Austria as Mayer. So is Franz Klammer, who won the 1976 Innsbruck Games downhill.

Mayer has had more success in super-G, including a silver medal at the 2008 junior world championships and two second-place World Cup showings. Those super-G skills suited him well for the Olympic downhill course, which was extremely technical.

At 3.5 kilometers (2.17 miles), the Rosa Khutor piste was also one of the most physically demanding tests skiers faced all season. With three big jumps, one of which sent skiers soaring into the air for 70 meters (yards), it provided for a spectacular race.

However, the stands were only half full at the start due to an apparent traffic problem. They only filled up as the race wore on.

Skies were cloudy and the temperature was slightly above freezing.

The next event on the Alpine schedule is the women's super-combined Monday, followed by the women's downhill Wednesday.

Matthias Mayer (Photo: The Canadian Press)

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(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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