WHISTLER, British Columbia -- Didier Defago broke a two-decade Swiss drought with gold in the Olympic downhill Monday and American Bode Miller broke his personal streak of major championship mishaps by taking the bronze.
Defago sped down the Dave Murray course in 1 minute, 54.31 seconds to match countryman Pirmin Zurbriggen's feat at the 1988 Calgary Games -- the last time a Swiss man had won an Olympic medal.
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While teammate and pre-race favorite Didier Cuche was still to ski, Defago was already aware he had laid down a special run and nearly fell over backward into the padding lining the finish area as he celebrated with both arms in the air.
Defending overall World Cup champion Aksel Lund Svindal of Norway took silver, a slim 0.07 seconds behind, and Miller was only 0.09 behind Defago.
Defago had never won a medal before at an Olympics or world championship. His lone World Cup victory came in a super-G in Val Gardena, Italy, way back in 2002 before he won the two most prestigious downhills of the World Cup season on back-to-back weekends last year in Wengen, Switzerland, and Kitzbuehel, Austria.
At 32 years and 4 months, Defago became the oldest man to win the Olympic downhill, three months older than Frenchman Jean-Luc Cretier when he won at the 1998 Nagano Games.
Mario Scheiber of Austria finished fourth, local favorite Erik Guay of Canada placed fifth and Cuche was sixth.
Miller won two silvers at the 2002 Salt Lake City Games and a full load of world championship medals before he went bust in Turin four years ago, making more headlines for his late-night partying than his skiing.
Miller also failed to win a medal at the 2007 and 2009 world championships and considered retiring over the summer before the Olympics lured him back for a shot at redeeming himself.
The race was originally scheduled for Saturday but was postponed for 48 hours due to the mix of warm temperatures, heavy snowfall, rain and fog that have wreaked havoc with the Alpine schedule at the Vancouver Games.
Conditions were still overcast Monday but the temperature fell below freezing overnight, making the course hard enough for skiers to dig their edges in and maintain control at speeds up to nearly 75 mph (120 kph).
Flat and dim light created some visibility problems, although there was none of the mid-mountain fog that has plagued the Alpine venue the past several days.