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Olympic men’s downhill skiing: Miller, Svindal hold advantage

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KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia — Ask just about any Alpine ski racer or coach at the Olympics who is most likely to win the men’s downhill today, and two names pop up over and over: Bode Miller and Aksel Lund Svindal.

That’s based, in part, on the pair’s past accomplishments.

“They have so much experience,” Austrian Alpine director Hans Pum said, “and so many victories.”

It’s also based on current form, and what they showed during three training runs on the difficult, and at times dangerous, Rosa Khutor course leading up to the sport’s first race of the Sochi Games. Miller, a 36-year-old American, produced the fastest times both Thursday and Saturday. Svindal, a 31-year-old Norwegian, was third Friday, second Saturday.

“Bode is fast, that’s the bottom line,” Svindal said. “Right now he looks like the favorite. ... But there is me, and I would say three, four other guys that could beat him. So we’ll see what happens.”

Miller and Svindal go way back, to their days on the lower-tier Europa Cup ski circuit more than a decade ago.

Stepping up to World Cup competition, they traded the overall title back and forth, with Miller winning in 2005 and 2008, and Svindal in 2007 and 2009.

Each won three medals, one of each color, at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, where Miller raised his career haul to five, a record for a U.S. Alpine skier. In the downhill, which was won by Didier Defago of Switzerland, Svindal took silver, and Miller bronze.

“We come from two different ends of the spectrum, in terms of our approach to the sport. Aksel’s super-consistent. Rock solid. Doesn’t really take risks very often. The risk he takes is always calculated on what it’s going to take to win,” Miller said. “I more or less ski with the intent to push myself, so sometimes the risk is out of proportion with where the rewards come from.”

He has been dominating the upper part of the course this week, building up an advantage of more than a second over Svindal by the third interval Saturday, for example.

“That’s where he’s able to set himself apart,” American skier Steven Nyman said.

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