Andrew Weibrecht and Bode Miller redeemed the U.S. Ski Team by winning silver and bronze in Sunday's super-G, flip flopping their finish from Vancouver four years ago. Norway's Kjetil Jansrud took gold, making it the fourth time in a row a Norwegian has won the men's Olympic super-G.
With a bronze to add to his three medals from Vancouver and two from Salt Lake, 36-year old Miller broke his own record as the most decorated American Alpine skier in Winter Olympic history — not to mention he became the sport's oldest medal winner.
But if Weibrecht and Miller's superlative super-G result seemed standard, the manner in which it played out couldn't have been more dramatic.
Miller—in what was likely his last real chance at a sixth Olympic medal—seemed to finally have luck on his side at these Games, drawing bib number 13, one of the earliest positions of the top seeded skiers. The New Hampshire-native put the relatively clean track to good use, pinning a tight line through the rhythmic gates and setting the fastest splits from start to finish. In contrast to the stiff, nerve-plagued skiing he showcased in the downhill, Miller looked loose and relaxed (despite a few bobbles), absorbing the undulating terrain, never panicking and letting his skis run. Still, when he hit the finish line with the provisional best time, he seemed skeptical that it would hold.
Sitting in the hot seat, Miller watched as the world's fastest ski racers tried to top his time. Austria—on a hot streak at Sochi with two golds already—threw down the gauntlet first, with back-to-back racers coming within hundredths of a second of the American's time. But as dangerous skiers either failed to finish (downhill gold medalist Matthias Mayer) or failed to live up to their top billing (defending champ Aksel Lund Svindal), Miller started believing.
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"I'm dodging bullets by millimeters right now" he said, nervously looking up the hill. "I need those hundredths to stay on my side for once."
And they did, until Norway's Kjetil Jansrud (slower than Miller at every checkpoint) made up time on the final pitch with a direct line to sneak past Miller by half a second. As the affable Norwegian celebrated, Miller visibly deflated, but there was still hope for a medal.
Canada's Jan Hudec produced the next scare, making up ground on Miller at every checkpoint before hitting the line with an identical time as the American. It was the second time Alpine skiers have tied for a medal at these Games (Tina Maze and Dominique Gisin both grabbed gold in the women's downhill), and only the sixth time it's happened in Olympic history.
With only two skiers remaining in the top 30, the podium seemed settled.
Weibrecht, however, had other plans. Starting bib number 29, the Lake Placid-native—known as War Horse to his teammates thanks to his aggressive skiing—blitzed the upper section of the course, arcing tight, clean turns down steep, off camber turns and executing a risky line. His go-for-broke approach paid off as he set the fastest time at every split.
Plagued by injuries, Weibrecht has only recorded one top ten finish in World Cup competition since his surprise bronze in Vancouver. But suddenly, everyone at the Rosa Khutor finish stadium was watching his run as Weibrecht seemed poised for one of the biggest upsets in Alpine history.
Inevitably, it wasn't to be. After coming off line on the final jump, the 28-year old American was forced to sacrifice aerodynamics in favor of staying on course, nipping in for silver instead.
Still, Weibrecht seemed color blind when it came to winning a medal, grabbing his helmet in glee when he looked up at the result board.
"I took a couple of seconds to see the time. I saw 'two,' then I looked away, and then I looked again" he told reporters, before adding: "It's been a rough couple of years. This makes up for it."
Miller was equally happy for his teammate.
"We're watching and I'm saying 'He's got a good chance to win this f---ing thing!'" Miller beamed, hugging Weibrecht.
Despite his competitive drive, Miller has always mentored his younger teammates,
many of whom grew up idolizing the veteran. And his appreciation for Weibrecht's run was genuine.
But the American Alpine legend saved his own celebration for a private moment. Never known for being overtly emotional, Miller—who once ruffled fans' feathers by saying he didn't care about Olympic medals—crouched by the finish line barriers and quietly wiped tears from his face, realizing what he'd accomplished.
"To be on the podium, this is a really big day for me. Emotionally, I had a lot riding on it" Miller told reporters. "Even though I didn't ski my best — a lot of mistakes — I'm just super, super happy.
He later explained that chief in his thoughts had been the death of his brother "Chilly" last April, of an apparent seizure.
“Losing my brother this year was really hard for myself, my family, our sort of whole community," he said, NBC Olympics reported. “I have been a focal point for them over the years — my racing. It was just — yeah, a lot of emotion. To have things go well today, as well as they did, I felt very fortunate to come out with a medal. Just, um, everything felt pretty raw and pretty connected. It was a lot for me.”