The Canadian Press - ONLINE EDITION

Miller gets tag as Olympic downhill favourite with fastest final training run

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KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia - Firmly establishing himself as the man to beat, Bode Miller was fastest Saturday in the final Olympic downhill training run.

Miller finished in two minutes, 6.09 seconds, one day before the first medal race on the Alpine schedule. The 36-year-old American also turned in the top time in Thursday's opening training session. He was sixth in Friday's training.

Asked what his objectives were Saturday, Miller said with a smile: "Um, not kill myself was primary."

He went on to explain that his "secondary" aim was to fix a mistake he made Friday in a particular section that comes right before a spot known as the Bear Jump. Miller was satisfied that he now knows the right way to approach that portion.

"I felt confident I could do it," Miller said, "but I hadn't done it in either of the training runs before, so I think that was important for me to nail that section and ski it really well."

Erik Guay of Mont-Tremblant, Que., was eighth with a time of 2:07.84. Manuel Osborne-Paradis of Ivermere, B.C., finished 11th in 2:08.20, while Benjamin Thomsen, also from Ivermere, was 16th in 2:09.19.

Calgary's Jan Hudec and Morgan Pridy of Whistler, B.C., did not do Saturday's training run.

Miller already owns a U.S.-record five Olympic Alpine medals, including three from the 2010 Winter Games. Another triple medallist in Vancouver, Aksel Lund Svindal of Norway, was second-fastest Saturday, 0.66 behind. A pair of Italians came next: Peter Fill and Werner Heel.

Svindal was the downhill silver medallist four years ago, one spot ahead of Miller.

After Saturday's training, Svindal acknowledged Miller has looked good so far on the Rosa Khutor course.

"Is he the favourite? I think so. He's been the best skier on this mountain, so right now he looks like the favourite," said Svindal, like Miller a two-time overall World Cup champion. "But there is me, and I would say three, four other guys that could beat him. So we'll see what happens."

Svindal was the only racer who was less than a second slower than Miller on Saturday.

"Looking at Bode, he brings intensity, but it's really that he's skiing really well," Svindal said. "That's his biggest advantage right now. Especially the top part, it's impressive."

Ten of 55 starters failed to finish. The first racer, Rok Perko of Slovenia, bloodied his face in a crash and was taken to the athletes village to be examined for a possible broken nose.

"That was kind of brutal," Svindal said.

Given that this was training, with no medals at stake, Svindal said he skied a little less than 100 per cent full-out.

Miller also did not worry about staying in a tight tuck position Saturday, easing upright a bit at times to rest his legs.

But he made sure to put full effort into learning which line he wanted to follow Sunday, when it counts.

"Race day is always different. It's going to be hard to stay calm," said Miller, who grew up in New Hampshire and now lives in San Diego. "Some courses, if you get fired up or you get too much intensity, you go slower. This one, I don't think (that's) the case. But yeah, I'm going to be ready. I want to win."

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Follow Howard Fendrich on Twitter at http://twitter.com/HowardFendrich

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