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Switzerland's Defago Wins Downhill Gold
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Switzerland's Defago Wins Downhill Gold

Switzerland's Defago Wins Downhill Gold

Switzerland's Defago Wins Downhill Gold
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Switzerland's Didier Defago won the gold Monday in the men's the Olympic downhill, while Bode Miller took bronze in the event. It was the first alpine skiing event held at the Winter Olympics in Vancouver after a series of weather delays.

MELISSA BLOCK, host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.

Before we begin our next story, an Olympic spoiler alert. If you plan to tune into tonight's telecast, you might want to plug your ears. We're talking about men's downhill skiing. And today, American Bode Miller was back on the podium. He took the bronze medal in the men's downhill, finishing less than a 10th of a second behind Didier Defago of Switzerland.

This was the first alpine skiing event of the Vancouver games; weather led to a series of delays.

NPR's Howard Berkes is with us from Whistler, home of the alpine competition.

And, Howard, let's start with Bode Miller. There were a lot of hopes riding on him four years ago in Turin; he did not medal there. Very different story today.

HOWARD BERKES: A different story, yes. A bronze medal for Bode Miller. Finally, some might say. He's had this very mixed career, you know, those two silvers in Salt Lake City, but beyond that, didn't finish in Nagano, mixed experience in Torino, and got more headlines for partying than for skiing.

Here he performed well, not as well as he had hoped. And he did say afterwards that he was more focused today, that he had really sort of changed his attitude from four years ago by rejoining the U.S. Olympic Team and training with the team.

And the conditions today did not favor him when he skied. It was shaded on the track then. The sun came out a little bit later for the skiers who followed him and they were able to pick up speed on the lower part of the course, which is where he lost speed in his race.

But he seems satisfied with his result today. And he has a couple of more races to go to still get higher on the podium.

BLOCK: You were talking about conditions there, Howard. The downhill had originally been scheduled for this past Saturday, moved to today because of rain and fog.

What's been going with the weather lately?

BERKES: Well, it dried out and cooled off last night and that helped leave a course that was more solid than what they had been experiencing in the last few days. I mean, this course was so slushy and mushy. They couldn't get fence posts in it to stay alongside it. But it cooled off last night. Clouds, but no rain, no snow, and I think that helped a lot.

Now, some of the skiers did complain about the condition of the course, though. Because there was some snow in the last 24 hours, that they packed down with boots rather than using a groomer to do that, and that left lumps in the course. And some of the skiers complained that in the darker morning run, it was hard to see those lumps and they couldn't ski as fast as they might have wanted to otherwise, because they couldn't quite see where those bumps were.

BLOCK: Mm-hmm. Now, Howard, Bode Miller, one big name. Another arguably bigger name, Lindsey Vonn. She's been worried about a shin injury, but she took a practice run today. How'd it go?

BERKES: She did and she spoke to reporters afterward. She said it was very painful. We still don't know for sure whether she's going to ski. She says that she probably will. But her run today, she said this left her in pain.

BLOCK: Howard, thanks very much.

BERKES: You're welcome.

BLOCK: That's NPR's Howard Berkes covering the Olympics from Whistler.

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