Olympics: Old hands vs young guns for men's downhill

A selection of old hands will line up against a rising number of young guns in the battle for victory in the men's downhill at the Sochi Olympics on Sunday.

Old hands

Didier Defago, Bode Miller and Aksel Lund Svindal finished on the podium in Vancouver four years ago. And quite frankly, who would bet against them repeating that podium in some configuration on Sunday?

Swiss racer Defago is the oldest man in the field at 36, American Miller is 10 days his junior, while Svindal of Norway is a relative whippersnapper at just 31.

Defago was a shock winner in 2010, but Miller and Svindal are both former two-time World Cup overall champions and, tellingly, have form when it comes to medalling at major championships.

The American, in a record fifth Olympics, has won five Winter Games medals, three (and one gold) coming in Vancouver, a feat mirrored by Svindal, who is also the reigning world downhill champion.

In the running for the podium should also be Austrian duo Klaus Kroell and Georg Streitberger, at 33 and 32 respectively, Canada's 2011 world downhill champion Erik Guay, 32, and 30-year-old Swiss latecomer Patrick Kueng.

"It's for all the guys," Defago said of the 3.5km-long course. "Young or old, you have to do the perfect run."

The perfect run has arguably been seen only once this season: Miller setting the ultimate downhiller's course in Kitzbuehel alight with a unforgettably masterful display -- albeit in training.

Young guns

Austrian tyro Matthias Mayer is the racer everyone's watching after two impressive training runs.

The 23-year-old's preferred discipline is the shorter speed event, the super-G, and his prowess over a middle section of the Rosa Khutor run demanding a steadfast command of the rhythmic turns in icy, rutted conditions could be key to his success.

Mayer will be accompanied in the downhill gold rush at Rosa Khutor by teammate Max Franz, a year older.

Franz belied his relative young age on the circuit when he admitted that he was "not really feeling I'm going to do an Olympic race -- but that's good, I hope it stays that way and I can stay relaxed".

"If you think it's the Olympics you start to tense up, and the most important is to ski relaxed, that's how you can give your best and that's the goal."

The outsiders

Italian trio Peter Fill, Christof Innerhofer and Werner Heel are always capable of throwing up a surprise result, notably Innerhofer with his love of hard, icy pistes -- a feature of the middle section of the course here.

A fourth, Dominik Paris, won silver at last year's worlds but is yet to come to life this season.

Norway's Kjetil Jansrud will be keen to be seen as a real "attacking Viking" challenger alongside teammate Svindal, while French hopes Johan Clarey and Adrien Theaux will have to go beyond their current seasonal form in their bid to medal.