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Olympics: Austrian tyro Mayer tops second downhill training

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Austrian tyro Matthias Mayer topped the men's second downhill training run in Rosa Khutor on Friday, as a clutch of veteran racers also made the top 10.

In brilliant sunshine with perfect snow conditions, the 23-year-old clocked 2min 6.51sec down the 3.5km-long course to finish 0.27sec ahead of Switzerland's Carlo Janka.

Norwegian colossus Aksel Lund Svindal, the 31-year-old reigning world downhill champion, was in joint third, 0.55sec behind the leader, together with Klaus Kroell, 33, who guaranteed himself a place in the highly competitive Austrian team with his performance.

Mayer, whose preferred discipline is super-G, and seventh-placed Max Franz, had already qualified for the downhill at the Sochi Games. Georg Streitberger, in 12th, sealed the fourth racing spot for the Austrians.

American Bode Miller, 36, was in fifth behind Italian Peter Fill after topping Thursday's first training.

Switzerland's defending Olympic champion Didier Defago, 10 days older than Miller, was in ninth at 1.35sec, just behind a second Norwegian, Kjetil Jansrud.

"I'm in good shape. I've had good training in recent weeks in the World Cup and yesterday and today here," said Mayer, whose father Helmut won super-G silver in the 1988 Calgary Games.

Mayer said he did not feel the burden of expectation as the lead downhill skier for Austria in the absence through injury of Hannes Reichelt, adding that he relished finishing ahead of idols Miller and Svindal.

"It's totally the opposite. I feel free and I'm in good shape. I like to ski. The weather and slope are perfect. It's race time! It's nice when role models are behind you.

"We have a lot of perfect downhill racers. It's good for me to be already qualified here so I could test something or try something out, that could be an advantage.

"In every race in Austria, it's always the same. You have to be fast, you have to be top 30 in World Cup, sometimes top 15 to race. Otherwise you have to go to qualification. We're a good team with a lot of good skiers."

Defending champion Defago did not rule out springing another surprise in the race on Sunday, although he did not think the Rosa Khutor piste would necessarily suit a more experienced racer.

"It's for all the guys," the Swiss chuckled. "Young or old, you have to do the perfect run. There are some turns which are key to the race, just after the (first) trampoline jump is a very important part and up top it's important to be good in your rhythm through giant slalom-like turns.

"Every race, you can have a surprise. The Olympic Games is very open. You have the four best guys from every nation and everything is possible.

"You have to be a technical skier but also in a good condition because it's very long. We'll see on Sunday -- I hope I can play with the best."

Defago's fellow veteran Miller, who has been nursing a sore knee since crashing in St Moritz, lamented the bone-rattling nature of parts of the course.

"It's just a rattly course. There's a lot of places where you're kind of bouncing around and when you're bouncing around at my age it doesn't feel that good," said the five-time Olympic medallist, in his fifth Winter Games.

Miller had led through the splits until a late error.

"The time today doesn't represent most of the way the run went, it just was that one really large mistake," he said.

Svindal said it was easy to drop valuable tenths of seconds on the demanding Rosa Khutor course.

"It's not easy. To do this course top to bottom with no mistakes... Matthias Mayer probably did it but the rest of us... it's a tough course," said the Norwegian who won silver behind Defago in Vancouver four years ago.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/140207/olympics-austrian-tyro-mayer-tops-second-downhill-training-0