WHISTLER, British Columbia – Swiss Didier Defago hurtles to gold in the men’s Olympic downhill final with a blisteringly fast run in Whistler.
In an incredibly tight field Defago finished only 0.07 seconds ahead of Norway’s Aksel Lund Svindal.
American Bode Miller was 0.09 seconds behind Defago, taking bronze after setting the early pace with a stunning eighth run of the day.
Favourite Didier Cuche was sixth while Canadian hopeful Manuel Osborne-Paradis was well off the pace in 17th.
The flagship event was delayed by two days because of adverse conditions in Whistler, but the gathering crowd were thrilled by the tightly fought competition.
Defago, who won the classic Kitzbuehel/Wengen double last year, claimed his first Olympic medal with a time of 1 minute 54.31 seconds, beating countrymen Cuche and Carlo Janka, who had been expected to compete for a podium spot.
“I’m very happy. It was a crazy run, not very easy because it was very different from the training,” said Defago.
“I really wanted to go back home with a medal. After three Olympics and a lot of championships, I think my experience made the difference.”
Miller, who won two silvers at the Salt Lake Games in 2002, but flopped badly at the Turin Games in 2006, laid down the gauntlet to the world’s best downhillers with his early run.
Defending overall World Cup champion Svindal edged ahead of Miller by 0.02 seconds to win his first Olympic medal but it was not enough to hold off Defago.
Team GB’s Edward Drake said he was ‘pretty pleased’ with his 38th place finish in the men’s downhill on his Olympic Winter Games debut.
“It’s really cool to get stuck in. It was great fun, I loved it,” said Drake, who returns to action on Tuesday in the men’s super combined.
“I skied well today. I made a couple of mistakes, but I’m pretty pleased with my performance. It was a great course; it’s got a bit of everything.
“This is the biggest stage there is and I’m representing my country. It can’t get much better than that, apart from winning a medal.
“With me it’s not about the here and now, it’s about what’s coming and what I expect over the next four years and beyond.”