KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia -- Bode Miller is at his fifth Olympics and already owns a U.S.-record five Alpine medals, so in many ways he certainly already has, as he put it Thursday, "been here and done this."
While Miller’s past accomplishments, plus propensity for saying whatever is on his mind, might have made him an athlete to keep an eye on during the Sochi Games anyway, his skiing still can grab headlines. Miller delivered the fastest opening downhill training run ahead of Sunday’s race, finishing in 2 minutes, 7.75 seconds.
"He’s been fast this whole season, but especially these last three weeks," said Aksel Lund Svindal of Norway, who tied for eighth in Thursday’s training and, like Miller, won a medal of each color at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics. "And this is also a course that should be good for him. So I’m not surprised."
"Not to take anything away from the Olympics," he said, a pair of sunglasses perched atop the "USA" blue wool cap on his head, "but it just isn’t the same after I’ve done it as many times as I have."
He made his debut at the 1998 Nagano Games, won a pair of silvers four years later in Salt Lake City, boasted about his late-night partying while failing to even finish three of five events in Turin in 2006, then left Vancouver in 2010 with a gold in super combined, silver in super-G and bronze in downhill.
Miller’s also a two-time overall World Cup champion, a man who has started 430 races on the circuit, earning 33 wins and another 45 top-three finishes.
All of which means he’s very talented at what he does -- a good thing, naturally -- and has plenty of experience -- not necessarily good, in Miller’s view.
Let him explain.
"It can be a hindrance to be in your fifth Olympics, with 400-something World Cups behind you: I do get less nervous; I do get less excited. I’m much more focused, and I’m hoping that kind of trade-off works in my favor," Miller said. "But I definitely can see, from my perspective now, some of my competitors, in a way, have an advantage over me."
Teammate Marco Sullivan was asked how Miller has changed, not only as a ski racer but as a person.
The query drew a hearty laugh.
"The relationship between Bode and I and all the guys is pretty much on the ski hill," Sullivan said. "I can say the way Bode skis is really similar to when I first saw him ski. ... He skis hard, skis technically amazingly well, and he’s fast, and he wants to win. Super-competitive. And I don’t know -- he’s Bode."
Two years ago, Miller injured his left knee during a Sochi Olympic test run on the same course used Thursday. He wound up needing surgery, then sat out all of last season.
He’s in much better shape than he was for Vancouver, he says, and has trimmed about 20 pounds from his frame. He finished second in a World Cup giant slalom in Beaver Creek in December, then had a pair of top-three finishes in Kitzbuehel, Austria, last month.
Miller himself will say he does not glide as well as many other racers, but he can find other places to make up time.
"I have areas where I can beat them, where I’m sneakier," Miller said, "where I can look at (the) line and know that I can do something that maybe hasn’t been done before."
KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia -- It took some major course work to turn the last big jump on the women’s Olympic downhill from terrifying to rather tame.
A one-hour delay, too. And three skiers sailing high into the air, with one racer even hurting both knees when she landed.
Quite a start on the new course.
Anna Fenninger of Austria had the fastest time in a training run that had to be halted early on so workers could alter a harrowing jump. Fenninger finished the tricky course in 1 minute, 41.73 seconds to put herself 0.21 seconds ahead of Fraenzi Aufdenblatten of Switzerland.
American skier Julia Mancuso was third, 0.38 seconds behind. Defending champion Lindsey Vonn is sitting out the Olympics after undergoing recent knee surgery.
Some of the skiers complained about the quality of forerunners that were used, believing that faster, more experienced course testers were needed to avoid what took place, with the opening three racers getting too much air on the jump down the home stretch.
That led to a lengthy delay to fix the course -- something that does occasionally happen on the World Cup circuit. The three racers were given the option of running the course again, with only Laurenne Ross of the United States doing so.
Daniela Merighetti of Italy skipped the re-run after hurting both knees when she landed hard on the ground after the jump. She had her left knee examined later in the day and her coach, Raimund Plancker, said at the team captains’ meeting that she "has nothing broken so she is OK."
Merighetti’s teammate, Verena Stuffer, also elected not to race again.
"I’m upset they didn’t have more expert forerunners," Merighetti said after her run. "They would’ve known not to send us down."
That sentiment was shared by Tina Weirather of Liechtenstein as well after a run in which she finished fourth.
"The problem is we don’t have really good test runners and forerunners," said Weirather, who finished 0.53 seconds behind Fenninger. "We should have two very good forerunners, just retired, paying them for one or two years, doing just that. Then we would have a responsible test run and then it would be much safer."
Women’s race director Atle Skaardal grasped where the athletes’ gripes were coming from and said: "We, of course, would always like to have better quality forerunners. But we can’t blame them."