Who is the best all-round male skier at the Sochi Olympics?
If you believe that the super combined race is the best measure of sheer versatility, that honour goes to Sandro Vitella, 28, of Switzerland. On Friday, he won gold in the race that combines the downhill (flat out speed) with the slalom (technical ability).
His win was a surprise. He placed 14 in the same event in Vancouver in 2010 and no better than fifth in this season’s world cup races.
”It's more than a dream come true,” he said. “It's also a big shock. I didn't think I would come first.”
It was also a big shock to the favoured competitors, who left the race course rather humbled.
Not one of the big guns made it into the top five in the race that combined a downhill run in the morning with a slalom the afternoon. American Ted Ligety, the reigning world champion in the event and gold medalist in Turin in 2006, finished 12. Teammate Bode Miller, the defending Olympic gold medalist, finished 6.
Norway’s Askel Lund Svindal, the overall world cup leader going into the Games, also had a disappointing run, with a 8th place finish after a poor showing in the downhill portion.
Silver went to Iveca Kostelic of Croatia, earning him his third consecutive super combined silver and his fourth Olympic silver. It is the only Olympic medal he has ever won. “I obviously specialize in silver,” he said. “Anyone who complains about silver or bronze does not have the right do do so.”
At 34, he is the second oldest alpine skier, male or female, to win an Olympic medal.
Kostelic faced some accusations that the slalom course unfairly favours his particular abilities for the simple reason that it was set by his father, Ante, the Croatian national coach. The senior Kostelic also set the Vancouver super combined course, where he son took silver. Most competitors, however, dismiss the talk that the slalom courses have been rigged in favour of the younger Kostelic.
Italy’s Cristof Innerhofer took bronze, a medal the country desperately needed after a poor showing at the Sochi Games so far. It has won only four medals, none of them gold.
Canada’s Morgan Pridy, who is 23, making him the young man on the Canadian team, finished 20th among the 50 competitors who entered the race. He was the lone Canadian entry.
The downhill was held an hour earlier – 10am local time – for fear that a later start would risk mushy snow. Deteriorating snow conditions are starting to affect training and race times and more warm weather is forecast.