Olympic officials at the Alpine skiing courses in Whistler, British Columbia, have kept wary eyes on the skies during these winter games.
Rain and fog delayed the first two Alpine events scheduled on the first two days of the games. Heavy snowfall overnight forced a third postponement Tuesday. Soft snow on the lower part of the course also contributed to the delay in the men's super-combined competition, a mix of downhill and slalom runs. Downhill training on the women's course was cancelled.
The delays actually favor American star Lindsey Vonn, who wants more time to heal from a painful shin injury. But they could drain momentum from fellow American Bode Miller, who won a bronze medal Monday in his first Olympic event, the men's downhill.
The downhill — a breakneck, all-out, just get-down-the-hill-fast race — had been scheduled for Saturday and was squeezed in between disruptive weather systems. For Miller, it marked the first chapter in a comeback attempt that could include as many as four more races at these Olympics.
Just four years ago, at the Torino Games, he was labeled "bad-boy Bode" because he seemed more interested in partying than skiing. Miller performed poorly on the slopes and abandoned the U.S. Ski Team for his own coaches, funding and training.
Miller rejoined the U.S. team and resumed his Olympic quest in September. At the time, he said, "My actions are going to speak more loudly than any apology can."
Former Bad-Boy Bode Skis In A New Way
On Monday, the crowd at the men's downhill event was so relieved that Alpine skiing had finally begun, even the rival Swiss and Canadians cheered wildly when Miller raced down the mountain.
After the race, Miller said he had returned with a fairly clean slate to the U.S. team and the Olympics.
"I didn't have a lot of baggage," he said. "There wasn't a lot of extra pressure. There wasn't a lot of business commitments; there wasn't a lot of anything. I just decided I wanted to ski race, and if I was going to ski race, I wanted to ski race in a way that would make me proud and hopefully inspire other guys in the sport. And I think that's a much nicer feeling for me than the way I was before."
The new way was good enough for the bronze. He was edged out by silver medalist Aksel Lund Svindal of Norway and Didier Defago of Switzerland, who won his country's first downhill gold in 22 years. And at 32, Defago is the oldest skier to win an Olympic downhill gold medal.
Some of the other skiers who raced said Miller could have won the event without the flat light that made it difficult for early racers to see challenging bumps in the course. Later skiers didn't have that problem. But Miller had nothing but praise for Defago.
"Technically, he's a really sound skier," Miller said. "He has no flaws anywhere."
A Chance To Heal
When it came to the women's events, though, American Vonn had nothing but scorn for the downhill course she skied in training Monday. The bumpiness there, she said, aggravated her painful shin injury.
"It was jarring," Vonn said. "It was a fight just to make it down. I think it's probably the worst course for my shin. But I just have to be able to grit my teeth and fight through it on Wednesday and hope I can still come out on top."
Vonn says weather delays in the last few days have given her a chance to heal.
"Having this break, I can't even tell you how much it helped," Vonn says. "And I'm really thankful Mother Nature cooperated with me. Someone is definitely looking out for me upstairs."
The women's downhill will be held Wednesday, if the weather cooperates. The men's super-combined has been rescheduled for Sunday.