Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

SECONDS, ANYONE?; Super-Combined; Swiss Surprise Gives Croatian Fourth Silver Medal; SOCHI 2014

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

SECONDS, ANYONE?; Super-Combined; Swiss Surprise Gives Croatian Fourth Silver Medal; SOCHI 2014

Article excerpt

KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia * It's been said, cynically, that a runner-up is the first loser, and Alpine skier Ivica Kostelic is rather familiar with the expression.

The Croatian has heard it plenty. Doesn't like it one bit. Especially now that he is the only Olympian to earn a silver medal in the same event at three consecutive Winter Games, finishing second Friday to surprise champion Sandro Viletta of Switzerland in the super-combined.

"I could be anywhere. I could be in the hospital right now," Kostelic said, referring to people less fortunate than him around the world. "So anyone who complains about silver or bronze doesn't have the right to do so."

Instead, it was Viletta who came through when it counted, something he's not all that used to. In 100 career World Cup races, he has accumulated all of one victory. But after having only the 14th-best time in the morning's downhill leg, he was second-best in the afternoon's slalom as the sun slid behind the face of an adjacent mountain. His total time of 2 minutes, 45.20 seconds was 0.34 faster than Kostelic.

"I know that I can ski fast, and I like this snow," Viletta said, referring to the mushy conditions brought about by temperatures reaching 55 degrees. "But I didn't expect to win."

Christof Innerhofer of Italy was 0.47 behind for the bronze, which he added to his silver from last weekend's downhill. So at the moment, he alone owns twice as many medals from the 2014 Sochi Games as the entire U.S. Alpine contingent.

"Unbelievable," Innerhofer said, before repeating the word syllable by syllable, "Un-be-liev-a-ble!" in case his surprise and joy were not clear.

He was incredulous because he gave himself zero chance at a medal, knowing that as a speed specialist who focuses on downhill and the super-G, he never trains in the more technical slalom. And yet he matched Kostelic with a slalom of 51.37 seconds, the third- fastest time in that leg; Viletta, though, was more than a second faster.

For the U.S. it was more disappointment. Through four of the 10 races on the schedule, the Americans have only one medal, Julia Mancuso's super-combined bronze; they had six medals this far into the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, part of their Alpine-leading total of eight. …

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