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AJ Bear crashes out in Super G

18 February 2006

In difficult conditions at Sestriere Borgata, alpine skier AJ Bear put down a good run in the Super G only to have it cancelled by officials due to bad weather. The event was postponed and in the re-run, he clipped a gate and crashed out, ending his Torino 2006 campaign.

Norwegian legend, Kjetil Andre Aamodt won his third Olympic Super G gold medal. 'The Herminator', the top-ranked Super G competitor this World Cup season, the great Hermann Maier of Austria, skied a powerful second half, only to fall 0.13 seconds short of Aamodt's mark. Ambrosi Hoffman of Switzerland held on for bronze.

Aamodt, who injured his hip in the downhill on Day 2 and missed the combined as a result, now has eight Winter Olympic medals - four of them gold - across five Games, more than any other skier.

"That's the first time I've seen a race restarted like that, after 17 people had come down, but that's the way it was and I had to go again and unfortunately I crashed," Bear said.

The 29-year-old from Sydney was 5th on the course after the 11am start, just as the snow started to get heavier, and he made one mistake which cost him a good deal of time.

"The first run it was snowing for everyone but I guess it got a bit heavier after the first few and the visibility wasn't great and there was a lot of new snow on the course," he said.

"I was having a pretty good run until about halfway down I swung out a little too wide and caught my tip in some fresh snow that hadn't been slipped off and I made a bit of a mistake (and) dumped a lot of speed.

"Other than that I was happy with the way I skied."

As more skiers came down the 2325-metre Kandahar Banchetta course on 18 February (Day 8), it became clear that both visibility and the layer of fresh snow on the flatter sections was having a severe effect, with Norwegian veteran Lasse Kjus, at number 14, skiing out.

After the 17th skier, downhill bronze medallist Bruno Kernen of Switzerland, had completed his run - and with Bear still ranked 8th - officials decided that the conditions had worsened to such an extent that they should put the event on hold.

About 20 minutes later, around midday, the decision was made to cancel the morning's efforts and re-start as soon as possible.

"They cancelled the race and I went up and did it again and I still felt confident and I went for it," Bear explained.

"I was relaxed and I felt that I was skiing pretty well but I felt that the skis weren't running as well as they were in the first run so I knew that I really had to lay the hammer down in the tight, technical turns and I was cutting some fine lines and I just cut one turn a little too fine and caught my tip on a gate and had a bingle," Bear said of the accident, about three-quarters of the way down the course and more than a minute into his run.

Bear, who missed a gate in the Super G at Salt Lake 2002, was disappointed but philosophical about his exit.

"Physically I felt fine and mentally I felt a lot better than I did on the first run. The first run I got the nerves out of my system and I was relaxed and confident and felt like I was in with a shot, but I was just unlucky," he said.

In a gripping contest, a number of skiers had their moment in the sun sitting atop the timesheet, including downhill gold medallist Antoine Deneriaz of France, American Scott McCartney, Liechtenstein's Marco Buechel and Ambrosi Hoffman of Switzerland.

US hope Bode Miller failed to finish after also clipping a gate but then Aamodt, the gold medallist at Albertville 1992 and again four years ago at Salt Lake, laid down a spectacular run, stopping the clock at 1:30.65.

Murray Brust/AOC
Sestriere

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