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Alpine Skiing at the 2010 Vancouver Winter Games:

Men's Downhill

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Host City: Vancouver, Canada
Venue(s): Whistler Creekside, Whistler
Date Started: February 15, 2010
Date Finished: February 15, 2010

Gold: SUI Didier Défago
Silver: NOR Aksel Lund Svindal
Bronze: USA Bode Miller

Summary

Whistler Creekside welcomed the downhillers with warm weather and little snow. The Dave Murray Downhill, a difficult and fast course with 37 corners, several steeps, flats, drop-offs, compressions and long turns, like "Coaches Corner", was prepared perfectly. Due to poor weather the first training run on 10 February was halted after 42 racers. The second training run one day later on 11 February was the only practice run for all competitors and saw Austrian Michael Walchhofer leading. To save the course the last training run on 12 February was cancelled. Originally the race start was scheduled for Saturday, 13 February at 12 noon, but the race was delayed very early in the morning due to snow in the higher part of the track and due to rain and fog in the lower part. Eventually warm temperatures forced a postponement until Monday, 15 February at 10:30.

The favorites for the race were the current World Cup leader in downhill, winner of two World Cup downhills in the season and fastest in the first training run Didier Cuche, the Austrian Michael Walchhofer (Downhill World Cup winner in 2008-09), and the locals Manuel Osborne-Paradis, Robbie Dixon (placed second in both trainings), and Erik Guay. Cuche broke his right thumb after a fall in the last World Cup race before the Olympics, but recovered right before the Games. The Canadians had the advantage that there were no Pre-Olympics so they had had the possibility to practice exclusively for two years since the course was modified. The last World Cup downhill race on the course, before the slight changes, was held on 25 February 1995. Only one of the downhillers came back 15 years later to compete at the Olympics, Patrik Järbyn who placed 50th in 1995. The next three tries to hold a downhill race were all cancelled due to weather issues (1996-98). Both the gold medalist from 2006 Antoine Dénériaz, as well as the bronze medalist Bruno Kernen, retired in 2007 and the very best downhiller of the last decade, Austrian Hermann Maier, retired just before the 2009-10 season. Also unable to compete was the reigning world champion, Canada's John Kucera, who broke his right tibia in the World Cup Super G race at Lake Louise in November.

On race day the weather was cloudy and the temperature was about 0°, with one cold night enough to make the course hard, rough, and icy, so the race could be started. The FIS official, assistant referee, and former Olympic competitor Helmuth Schmalzl was the course setter. The first top time was set by the French David Poisson who came up with starting number 3 and a very close and thrilling race began. The first of the top favorites was Bode Miller with bib number 8. He topped the times of Poisson, leading by 0.97 seconds at the second intermediate mark at around 50 seconds of the run after the "Toilet Bowl". At the finish line Miller took the lead by 0.42 seconds. The first of the top group was Norwegian Aksel Lund Svindal with bib number 16, who lost time in the first part of the course and after the "Toilet Bowl" was 0.79 seconds behind Miller. But an excellent race in the middle section and final sections enabled Svindal to overtake Miller by only 0.02 seconds. Didier Défago started a few racers later. He equaled the top time of Miller at the first intermediate mark and raced a next to perfect downhill from the beginning to the end. At the last intermediate he was 0.03 seconds in front of Svindal and at the finish Défago took the lead by 0.07 seconds. The next favorite to start was Didier Cuche in position 22. Cuche also topped the times of Défago at the first two intervals, but lost time in the middle section, and would eventually finish sixth, leaving the medals to Défago, Svindal, and Miller in that order. Défago who won at Kitzbühel and Wengen last season, was a surprise winner, but not overly so, although he only qualified for the Swiss team at the last minute, when he bumped out Tobias Grünenfelder and Patrick Küng in the last training run to qualify as the fourth Swiss competitor.

The first five finishers represented five different countries and skied on three different products. Défago won with Rossignol; Svindal, Mario Scheiber, and Guay used Atomic; while Miller trusted Head. Twenty-two years after Pirmin Zurbriggen won in Calgary, Switzerland again won downhill gold in Canada. As a tribute to this win the Swiss racing suits were designed in the same style as in 1988, so Défago won the race in the same red and white outfit that Zurbriggen wore. The first major alpine skiing decision at the 2010 Winter Olympics ended with good luck. A course worker struggled and fell on the left side of the finishing straight. He was not able to leave the piste before the Australian Craig Branch came down with maximum speed. Luckily Branch had chosen to ride on the right side.

Final Standings

Rank Athlete Age Team NOC Medal T
1 Didier Défago 32 Switzerland SUI Gold 1:54.31
2 Aksel Lund Svindal 27 Norway NOR Silver 1:54.38
3 Bode Miller 32 United States USA Bronze 1:54.40
4 Mario Scheiber 26 Austria AUT 1:54.52
5 Erik Guay 28 Canada CAN 1:54.64
6 Didier Cuche 35 Switzerland SUI 1:54.67
7 David Poisson 27 France FRA 1:54.82
8 Marco Büchel 38 Liechtenstein LIE 1:54.84
9 Klaus Kröll 29 Austria AUT 1:54.87
10 Michael Walchhofer 34 Austria AUT 1:54.88
11 Carlo Janka 23 Switzerland SUI 1:55.02
12T Hans Olsson 25 Sweden SWE 1:55.19
12T Werner Heel 27 Italy ITA 1:55.19
14 Rok Perko 24 Slovenia SLO 1:55.26
15 Peter Fill 27 Italy ITA 1:55.29
16 Adrien Théaux 25 France FRA 1:55.40
17 Manuel Osborne-Paradis 26 Canada CAN 1:55.44
18 Ivica Kostelić 30 Croatia CRO 1:55.49
19 Christof Innerhofer 25 Italy ITA 1:55.58
20 Steve Nyman 28 United States USA 1:55.71
21 Andrew Weibrecht 24 United States USA 1:55.74
22 Hans Grugger 28 Austria AUT 1:55.81
23 Ambrosi Hoffmann 32 Switzerland SUI 1:56.04
24 Stephan Keppler 27 Germany GER 1:56.11
25 Jan Hudec 28 Canada CAN 1:56.19
26 Guillermo Fayed 24 France FRA 1:56.20
27 Johan Clarey 29 France FRA 1:56.29
28 Andrej Jerman 31 Slovenia SLO 1:56.35
29 Patrik Järbyn 40 Sweden SWE 1:56.58
30 Ondřej Bank 29 Czech Republic CZE 1:56.66
31T Lars Myhre 25 Norway NOR 1:56.69
31T Kjetil Jansrud 24 Norway NOR 1:56.69
33 Natko Zrnčić-Dim 23 Croatia CRO 1:57.02
34 Craig Branch 33 Australia AUS 1:57.19
35 Patrick Staudacher 29 Italy ITA 1:57.21
36 Petr Záhrobský 29 Czech Republic CZE 1:57.44
37 Andrej Križaj 23 Slovenia SLO 1:57.72
38 Ed Drake 24 Great Britain GBR 1:57.91
39 Jono Brauer 28 Australia AUS 1:58.08
40 Kryštof Krýzl 23 Czech Republic CZE 1:58.43
41 Ivan Ratkić 23 Croatia CRO 1:58.58
42 Andreas Romar 20 Finland FIN 1:58.71
43 Markus Larsson 31 Sweden SWE 1:58.82
44 Ferrán Terra 22 Spain ESP 1:58.85
45 Aleksandr Khoroshilov 25 Russia RUS 1:59.21
46 Truls Ove Karlsen 34 Norway NOR 1:59.52
47 Kevin Esteve Rigail 20 Andorra AND 1:59.61
48 Roger Vidosa 25 Andorra AND 1:59.65
49 Maui Gayme 26 Chile CHI 1:59.76
50 Igor Zakurdayev 23 Kazakhstan KAZ 1:59.80
51 Paul de la Cuesta 21 Spain ESP 1:59.84
52 Jaroslav Babušiak 25 Slovakia SVK 1:59.99
53 Johnny Albertsen 32 Denmark DEN 2:00.12
54 Stepan Zuyev 21 Russia RUS 2:00.58
55 Cristian Simari Birkner 29 Argentina ARG 2:01.67
56 Jorge Mandrú 23 Chile CHI 2:01.72
57 Filip Trejbal 25 Czech Republic CZE 2:02.57
58 Roberts Rode 22 Latvia LAT 2:03.36
59 Andrey Drygin 32 Tajikistan TJK 2:04.44
AC Robbie Dixon 25 Canada CAN DNF
AC Andrej Šporn 28 Slovenia SLO DNF
AC Dragoş Staicu 24 Romania ROU DNF
AC Stefan Georgiev 32 Bulgaria BUL DNF
AC Marco Sullivan 29 United States USA [2:07.76] DQ