Miller leads the way in downhill training

ROSA KHUTOR, Russia Thu Feb 6, 2014 4:54am EST

1 of 2. Olympic alpine skier Bode Miller poses for a portrait during the 2013 U.S. Olympic Team Media Summit in Park City, Utah, September 30, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Lucas Jackson

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ROSA KHUTOR, Russia (Reuters) - Alpine skiing showman Bode Miller is rarely short on confidence but gave himself a boost anyway by setting the fastest time in training for the showcase men's Olympic downhill at the Sochi Games on Thursday.

The U.S. veteran, in his fifth Winter Games at the age of 36, sped down the Rosa Khutor piste with a time of two minutes 07.75 seconds on a brilliant sunny afternoon in the mountains above Sochi.

"My confidence is never really my issue," he grinned as he spoke to reporters afterwards. "Unfortunately they don't give any medals for training because if they did I'd be psyched today.

"But it certainly doesn't hurt. To come out here and ski hard, ski well, first run is great," added the five times Olympic medalist, who aims to become the oldest man to win an Alpine gold.

Switzerland's Patrick Kueng was second fastest, a mere 0.03 slower, with Austrian Matthias Mayer third, 0.17 slower than Miller in a session that saw all of the top contenders ski well within their limits.

Norwegian Aksel Lund Svindal, the Olympic super-G champion and 2010 downhill silver medalist, was eighth on the timesheets.

"It was a bad run, to be honest," said Svindal, the overall World Cup leader and an early favorite.

"I was 1.2 (seconds) behind. I would definitely like to be faster but I have some big things I need to change so I'm not too worried here."

The downhill opens the Alpine program on Sunday.

(Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Peter Rutherford)

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