SOCHI, Russia -- Matthias Mayer of Austria won the Olympic downhill Sunday as the big favorites struggled in Alpine skiing's signature race.
Mayer completed the Rosa Khutor course in 2 minutes 6.23 seconds. Christof Innerhofer of Italy took silver, 0.06 seconds behind, and Kjetil Jansrud of Norway earned bronze, 0.10 behind.
Pre-race favorites Aksel Lund Svindal and Bode Miller finished fourth and eighth, respectively.
Mayer was one of the first contenders to come down, with the No. 11 bib, and he hardly celebrated when he reached the finish. But his smile grew wider as all the favorites failed to catch him, then he began jumping up and down before he went out for the flower ceremony.
Mayer closed his eyes as he was introduced to the crowd, then opened them up and jumped onto the top step of the podium and raised his arms in celebration, as Austrian Chancellor Werner Faymann looked on from the stands.
Mayer's joy came in sharp contrast to Miller's desperation.
After crossing the finish, Miller sat down on his skis with a look of bewilderment on his face. And that was understandable, considering that he had dominated two of the three official training sessions.
“It's tough. I was looking to win,” Miller said. “I thought I had a good chance at it. I was well-prepared.”
Miller was one of the fastest skiers on the top section but lost speed when he hit a gate on a right turn a bit further down.
“He pinched it off and went into the gate,” Italian skier Dominik Paris said. “It was a critical section there.”
With clouds hanging over the course during the race, conditions were different from the sun and shade of the training sessions.
“The visibility has changed a ton from the training run,” Miller said. “The middle and bottom of the course slowed so much from the beginning of the race until I went that I thought you have to do something magical to win.
“I didn't really make any mistakes in the middle and bottom of the course,” Miller added. “And I lost a ton of time.”