Sandro Viletta wins super-combined

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KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia -- For Sandro Viletta, it was a stunning Olympic gold.

For Ivica Kostelic, it was the same old Olympic silver. For the Americans, it was another day without a trip to the podium.

Viletta took advantage of a blistering slalom run to beat the favored Kostelic in Friday's super-combined, a race held in spring-like conditions with snow turning to slush.

The Swiss skier stood only 14th after the downhill portion but put down the second-fastest slalom run to finish in a two-run combined time of 2 minutes, 45.20 seconds -- then waited as one skier after another failed to catch him.

"I didn't expect to win," said Viletta, whose career has been slowed by back troubles. "I knew that I could ski fast. I like the snow and this was my chance."

In fact, this was the only race Viletta entered in Sochi. He'll now head home with a gold medal around his neck.

"In super-combined ... you never know what is possible," Viletta said. "I thought it could be possible to go on the podium, but you must have a perfect day."

Friday was not perfection for defending champion Bode Miller, who made a big mistake during his downhill run and finished sixth, nor world champion Ted Ligety, who had a ragged slalom leg and placed 12th.

Miller was only 12th in the downhill after swinging out wide and far off the racing line midway down the course. He had the seventh-fastest slalom leg to move up six spots.

"The tactics were there and the skiing was there but you can't make mistakes like I did today," Miller said.

Miller wrote later on Twitter that he would never stop competing.

Ligety was 18th after the downhill and had only the eighth-fastest slalom.

"The snow was a lot better than I thought it would be and the course-set was a lot easier than I thought it would be and I just skied conservatively," Ligety said. "To put it simply, I choked -- for sure. That's disappointing."

While both Americans struggled, they still have races to look forward to.

Miller will be among the favorites for Sunday's super-G and Ligety is the outright favorite for Wednesday's giant slalom.

Kostelic came close, but the Croatian instead ended up becoming the first skier to win three silvers in a single Alpine skiing discipline, finishing 0.34 behind. Christof Innerhofer, the Italian who took silver in downhill, ended up 0.47 behind for bronze in an event he was worried he might not be able to enter due to his chronically bad back.

When the race was over, Viletta was smiling from ear to ear, Kostelic was shaking his head and Innerhofer was celebrating again.

The 28-year-old Viletta has won only one World Cup race in his career, a super-G in Beaver Creek, Colo., in December 2011. His best super-combined result came in Wengen, Switzerland, last month when he was fourth.

While he hadn't gained much attention entering this race, Viletta finished fifth in the super-combined at last year's world championships, and he was sixth in the event at the 2009 worlds.

About a month after his win in Colorado, Viletta crashed in another race, starting his back troubles.

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