SOCHI, Russia -- The U.S. Alpine skiing team got off to a rousing Sochi start Thursday by winning two medals on the first day of downhill training.
Oh wait, they don’t hand out medals for training runs, but skiing fast in practice is still better than skiing slow.
It was certainly an encouraging start for American superstars Bode Miller and Julia Mancuso, who have already combined for eight Olympic medals.
Both skiers raced as if they were itching for more.
Miller continued his fine skiing of late by winning the first men’s downhill training run in advance of Sunday’s first Olympic alpine event.
Miller may be approaching the back slope of his career at age 36, but he's skiing like he's 26. Miller won the run with a time of 2 minutes and 7.75. Patrick Kueng of Switzerland finished second and Austria’s Matthias Mayer was third.
American ski-team veteran Marco Sullivan finished fourth.
Mancuso finished third in the women's first trial run, behind Austria’s Anna Fenninger and Switzerland’s Fraenzi Aufdenblatten, in the women’s training look at the course at Rosa Khutor.
The women open Olympic competition Monday with the super combined, with the downhill scheduled for Feb. 12.
Miller is competing in his fifth Olympics and has won five medals -- gold, three silvers and a bronze. This is the fourth Olympic appearance for Mancuso, who owns a gold and two silvers.
All 10 Olympic events for the men and women will conclude in the same finish area at Rosa Khutor.
Racers praised both men’s and women’s courses, although women’s training was halted briefly to shave some bite off the final jump.
Miller said the men’s setup is much better than the bumpy test run here in 2012, when several skiers left complaining of knee injuries.
“I was psyched to show up to see the course in such good shape after all the speculative talk about marginal snow conditions, or the changes that were going to have to be made,” Miller said. “I think the hill is the toughest we’ve seen this year.”
Mancuso’s training time of 1 minute 42.11 was less than a half second off Fenniger’s leading pace.
“The hill is great,” Mancuso pronounced after her run.
U.S. teammates Stacey Cook and Laurenne Ross also had good runs. Cook finished ninth while Ross was 14th.
The men and women will resume downhill training Friday.
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