KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia (AP) — Lowering his head, then crouching in a corner, Bode Miller lingered in the finish area after his slower-than-expected Olympic downhill run, contemplating where things might have gone wrong.
Most everyone, Miller included, thought he was the man to beat entering Sunday's race.
Most everyone, the 36-year-old American included, thought he had a realistic shot at becoming the oldest Alpine gold medalist in Winter Games history.
Didn't even come close. Failing to produce the sort of near-perfect performance he came up with in practice, Miller finished eighth in the downhill, more than a half-second slower than champion Matthias Mayer of Austria.
"This can be a tough one to swallow today, having skied so well in the training runs, and then come in and be way out of the medals," said Miller, who was born in New Hampshire and now is based in California.
"But I think I skied really well, honestly. I was super-aggressive," he added. "The conditions didn't favor me today, but I think, all things considered, I skied really well."
Not nearly well enough. Still, Miller only would concede that he made "a few little mistakes the whole way down, but nothing that really should have cost me much time."
He had the fastest times on two of the three training days, when the sky was blue and sunlight draped the snow. On Sunday, a cloud cover made it tougher to see, and Miller pointed to that as a key factor.
"I don't have as much tolerance for not being able to see the snow. I need to know where the snow is," Miller explained. "The beginning of the turn, middle of the turn, I need to know where the little bumps are, because I'm right on the edge."
In addition to the lower visibility, he said the snow in the middle of the course was softer when he raced as the 15th starter than when Mayer was the 11th man down the hill.
All week, he was by far the best racer at the top of the course, building up advantages that allowed him to overcome being slower in the lower sections.