UPDATE: Bode Miller suffered a torn hamstring tendon from a lower leg laceration as a result of crashing 59 seconds into the men’s super-G. He underwent successful surgery at Vail Valley Medical Center with Dr. Randy Viola and Dr. Tom Hackett and was released following surgery, as of 6:07 p.m. MT. The injury will keep him out of the remainder of the world championships.
BEAVER CREEK, Colo. — The sun finally came out at Beaver Creek. But it did not shine on the U.S. Ski Team in men’s super-G.
Nor did it shine on Bode Miller, who had a horrific crash two-thirds of the way down the Birds of Prey course and was taken to the hospital for further evaluation.
Ted Ligety, who came into the race as the reigning super-G world champion, was the top U.S. finisher in ninth.
The super-G medals were claimed by Austria’s Hannes Reichelt, who won the Beaver Creek World Cup super-G two months ago; Canada’s Dustin Cook, who, like Andrew Weibrecht at the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games, skied from bib 28 into silver-medal position; and France’s Adrien Theaux, who took the bronze.
The tone for the U.S. team was set early when Travis Ganong, with bib 3, slid out near the top. After two days of snowfall and warm temperatures, the snow was soft and gave way when Ganong edged hard.
“My plan was to come in there and juice that turn and carry a lot of speed from there onto the flat,” said Ganong. “But the snow was so bally in there in that tight line, it just didn’t work.”
|Bode Miller falls during the men's super-G on the Birds of Prey race course at the 2015 FIS Alpine World Ski Championship on Feb. 5, 2015 in Beaver Creek, Colo.|
Miller was the next U.S. skier on course. He was charging and skied the top section faster than anyone. By mid-course, he had built over a half-second lead. As race announcer Peter Graves gushed into the microphone, this could be one the greatest comeback stories of all time.
Only 10 weeks since back surgery, 37-year-old Miller had not competed in one world cup this season. Determined to ski in his eighth world championship, he trained hard and knew coming to Beaver Creek that he had the speed to contend for a medal. Miller has a total of five world championship medals and last won the super-G at worlds a decade ago.
“Bode was skiing outstanding, he was going for it, absolutely sending it from top to bottom, took risks and was putting down the run that he knew inspired America and inspires the world,” said men’s head coach Sasha Rearick.
Then Miller skied into the Abyss — a compression after the Golden Eagle jump. Skiing a tight line, he hooked his left arm in a gate. The force yanked his ski pole from his grasp and spun him around backwards. As he spun and bounced on the snow, the edge of his left ski deeply gashed his right calf.
He skied to the bottom under his own power. His leg was wrapped with gauze, and he was taken to Vail Valley Medical Center for further evaluation.
Rearick, who was standing on the course where Miller went down, described the crash as “horrific.”
“The way he came into me, hands in front of him, looking for every hundredth of a second,” said Rearick, “that crash happened so quick.”
Miller tumbled out of Rearick’s view but another U.S. team coach radioed up that Miller was all right. Rearick said Miller later told him that his back was not re-injured.
Andrew Weibrecht, Ligety and Steven Nyman were the final hope for a U.S. medal. But soft snow did them no favors. Ligety led on the steep, turny top pitch but lost time on the flats. He finished ninth while Weibrecht and Nyman tied for 19th.
“I felt like I skied pretty well,” Ligety said. “I was one of the faster guys on the top section, which is more the kind of section that I should be skiing fast, more similar to GS. I’m happy with that. You know when I weigh 30 pounds less than most of my competitors, I’m going to lose a ton of time on flat sections if it’s soft snow. If it’s ice, then I can stay close.”
Asked if Miller’s crash affected him, Ligety said no.
“Watching Bode, he was skiing great,” said Ligety. “That was a pretty scary crash he had there, but it’s an individual sport, you’ve just got to go up there and ski your own race. We’re pretty used to watching guys pack it in and then having to run right after them. It’s not ideal, obviously. I would have liked to see him come down, and he probably would have been winning this thing. But it’s something we deal with on a regular basis.”
Like Miller, Ligety also has won five world championship medals, including three golds from the 2013 world championships — in super-G, combined and giant slalom.
When asked if Miller will be able to compete in the world championship downhill on Saturday, Rearick said, “I hope so.”
The race was disappointing, said Rearick, but he is proud of the team for attacking the course.
“We have a lot to learn from today,” he said. “We’re looking forward to putting those things together and getting ready for the downhill.”
A freelance writer based in Vermont, Peggy Shinn has covered three Olympic Games. She has contributed to TeamUSA.org since its inception in 2008.