U.S. Alpine team experiencing power outage

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KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia — Four years ago, after four events up at Whistler, the U.S. Alpine ski team could boast five Olympic medals, two of them gold.

Here, after four events, the count for the Americans: one medal, Julia Mancuso’s bronze in the super-combined, the event that mixes one race of downhill and one of slalom.

The men’s super-combined Friday, for instance, featured the Vancouver 2010 gold medalist, Bode Miller, and the 2013 world champ in the event, Ted Ligety. If ever a race seemed tailor-made for the U.S. team to win one or more medals — here it was.

VIDEO: Ted Ligety — “It was a choke”

Miller finished sixth, Ligety 12th.

Ligety, afterward: “I choked, for sure.”

Miller: “I was pretty lousy.”

Is it, well, all gloom and doom for the U.S. Ski Team, which — truthfully — in recent years has done much to back up its audacious claim to be “best in the world”?

Or do the first days of the 2014 Winter Games more accurately reflect a broader truth?

Which is: Alpine skiing is a hard game. Nothing — repeat, nothing — is guaranteed. To win, you have to be really good, conditions have to be right and, frankly, the breaks have to break your way.

That’s what happened in Vancouver.

Lindsey Vonn won two medals in 2010, including gold in the downhill. She is not here, injured.

Would she have won the downhill here? Who knows. But let’s be real.

Healthy, would she — the winner of 59 World Cup races and four World Cup season overall titles — have changed the dynamic of Wednesday’s downhill? Absolutely.

VIDEO: Wife to Bode Miller — “I need positivity out of you”

Miller won three medals in Vancouver, including that super-combined gold. He caught lightning in a bottle in 2010. He seemingly came to Sochi on a roll and absolutely dominated the three downhill training races. Then, though, he took eighth in the race itself last Sunday when the light changed, afterward saying that he hadn’t won a race in five years in flat light and maybe needs corrective eye surgery.

In good light Friday for the downhill portion of the super-combi, he made a mistake between the second and third intervals, going wide on a turn, that cost him precious time. In the second run, he simply hasn’t put in enough slalom time this season to hammer as hard as he needs but nonetheless went for it, all out, as only he can, in a course set by Croatia’s Ante Kostelic, father of the eventual silver medalist, Ivica Kostelic.

A Kostelic slalom set is full of unusual rhythms. A typical course on today’s World Cup circuit can be almost mind-numbingly repetitive in its precision, the gates seemingly fixed almost by laser and a drill. A Kostelic course hearkens back to the old days, with gates set in ways meant to punctuate a racer’s traverse down and across the mountain.

VIDEO: Miller explains why race was so challenging

It was a Kostelic set at the Vancouver slalom in the super-combi as well. So Miller knew, more or less, what to expect.

“Obviously,” Miller said, “I should have skied better in the downhill,” because he ended that 1.43 seconds behind the first-run leader, Norway’s Kjetil Jansrud, who would eventually finish fourth.

“I mean, but — if I skied well, I would have been a second faster, probably, and that puts me on the podium. But I should have skied a second and a half faster in the slalom, and that would have put me on the podium.

“These days, in these conditions, you can’t make mistakes. I went through today pushing hard. I’m trying to do everything I can to be fast. The margins,” he said, are so small right now.”

Ligety, meanwhile, the 2006 combined gold medalist, had put himself — he thought — in excellent position after the downhill to prevail. He was 1.93 back after the first run. Unlike Miller, though, he had confidence in his slalom. The Koselic course set, he said, turned out to be “easier than I thought it would be.”

And yet, he said, “I definitely skied way too conservatively. That’s definitely frustrating.”

VIDEO: Three fences go down in crash

He added, as an explanation, “I just respected it too much. I respected the course too much.”

Switzerland’s Sandro Viletta won Friday. To give you an idea about the variability of ski racing, even at this level: Viletta has never won a World Cup super-combined. “At the moment,” he said, “I cannot believe this is true.”

Kostelic’s silver was the fourth in his career, and he offered beautiful testimony about it.: “One should not be unthankful for the silver. First of all, I could be anywhere. I could be in a hospital right now. I could be picking garbage in Calcutta or dying of hunger in Africa. Anyone who complains about silver or bronze doesn’t have the right to do so.”

Italy’s Christof Innerhofer won bronze; he won silver in the downhill. He had no expectation of winning a medal Friday, saying that in the slalom start house, “I was thinking of nothing. I was relaxed because I was thinking I didn’t have a chance … it is crazy I can be here [on the podium] today.”

Here, then, is the reality about ski racing.

Things might continue like this throughout these 2014 Games for the U.S. alpine team.

Then again, as the women’s halfpipe team — two medals of three — and the men’s ski slopestylers — a podium sweep — made abundantly plain, things might turn around, and fast.

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“I mean, it’s a bummer,” Ligety said. “It would have been nice to get a medal today.”

But, he said, “There’s still a lot of events left. There’s still a lot of racing.” And, he said, “It’s all totally different racing than it was today.”

Michael Phelps, Nicole Johnson secretly married in June

OMAHA, NE - JULY 01:  Michael Phelps (L) of the United States celebrates with his fiance Nicole Johnson (R) and their son Boomer (C) after finishing first in the final heat for the Men's 200 Meter Individual Medley during Day Six of the 2016 U.S. Olympic Team Swimming Trials at CenturyLink Center on July 1, 2016 in Omaha, Nebraska.  (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
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PARADISE VALLEY, Ariz. (AP) — Michael Phelps can add getting married to his long list of accomplishments this year.

The Arizona Republic reports the 31-year-old Olympic swimming champion secretly married longtime girlfriend Nicole Johnson on June 13, a little more than a month after the former Miss California USA gave birth to their son, Boomer.

The newspaper has posted a copy of a marriage license that shows Phelps and Johnson were married in Paradise Valley, Arizona. Neither Phelps, nor Johnson said anything about the wedding. Johnson posted a picture of her with Phelps and Boomer on Instagram on the day of the ceremony with the caption, “Such a memorable night with my lil fambam.”

Phelps won five more gold medals in this year’s Rio Games to increase his overall haul to 23.

VIDEO: Phelps appears in ‘Call of Duty’ trailer

Such a memorable night with my lil fambam 😍💖 boomer obviously didn't want to hold still🙈

A photo posted by Nicole Michele Johnson (@nicole.m.johnson) on

Three more weightlifters stripped of Olympic gold medals

LONDON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 05:  Weights sit in a rack during the Women's 75kg Weightlifting on Day 9 of the London 2012 Olympic Games at ExCeL on August 5, 2012 in London, England.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
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LAUSANNE, Switzerland (AP) — Three female weightlifters from Kazakhstan have been stripped of gold medals from the 2012 London Olympics after failing retests of their doping samples.

The Kazakh lifters were among eight athletes sanctioned by the International Olympic Committee on Thursday after their stored samples came back positive for steroids.

Zulfiya Chinshanlo, Maiya Maneza and Svetlana Podobedova have been stripped of the gold medals they won in the 53-kilogram, 63kg and 75kg divisions, respectively. All three tested positive for the steroid stanozolol, with Chinshanlo’s sample also containing oxandrolone.

The IOC did not say whether the medals would be reallocated to other athletes. If that happens, Christine Girard of Canada would be elevated to silver in the 63kg class and could get gold if a failed doping test from a Russian lifter who was the original second-place finisher also results in a ban.

Also Thursday, a female weightlifter from Belarus was stripped of a bronze medal. Marina Shkermankova had finished third in the 69kg class. Also disqualified were two other Belarusian lifters, a Russian hammer thrower and a Russian pole vaulter, none of whom won medals.

The punishments for the Kazakh and Belarusian weightlifters are now set to trigger an automatic one-year ban from all international weightlifting competitions for the two countries under International Weightlifting Federation rules imposing automatic bans if at least three of a country’s athletes fail Olympic retests.

The IOC said a case against a Russian wrestler who won a silver medal was dropped because he died in a car crash three years ago. The IOC disciplinary commission said Besik Kudukhov‘s result will stand because it cannot rule on doping cases involving the dead.

“The situation is unsatisfactory as it implies that Olympic results which would probably have had to be reviewed will remain uncorrected,” the commission noted in its ruling.

The IOC stores doping samples for 10 years so they can be reanalyzed when improved testing methods become available.

The IOC recorded a total of 98 positive cases in recent retests of samples from the London Games and 2008 Beijing Olympics, with almost half of the cases in weightlifting.

Weightlifting has long struggled with doping, but is under particular pressure over the retests. In one event from 2012, six of the top-10 finishers have tested positive.

In August, IWF president Tamas Ajan told The Associated Press he hoped the sport would be allowed to stay on the Olympic program for future games despite its struggles with steroids, and said he wanted to ban leading countries from the sport for a year in a process he likened to shock therapy.

The retests have also implicated a Kazakh gold medalist who is the sport’s biggest star on social media. Ilya Ilyin has failed retests from both the 2008 and 2012 Olympics, though the IOC has not yet finished processing those cases.

MORE: Six of top seven from Olympic event positive in doping retests