(UPDATED) Asa Miller just could not solve the Ice River course, and for the second straight time, he registered a DNF (did not finish) in his first run of the men's slalom on Wednesday at the Beijing Winter Olympics.
The weather was better than it was three days ago, when Miller also got a DNF in the giant slalom. But the track continued to befuddle not just Miller but 33 other skiers, who all failed to complete the Ice River.
"I have a fault also," said Miller, who was crestfallen after his DNF.
Austrian Johannes Strolz topped the first run by a slim margin over Norway's Henrik Kristoffersen and Sebastian Foss-Solevaag.
Strolz, 29, and already a winner of the Alpine combined last week in his first Olympics, clocked 53.92 seconds. Kristoffersen was .02 seconds behind and Foss-Solevaag by .06.
The Austrian described the snow as "a little uneven between being aggressive and icy in some spots," but it was different for the two-time Olympian Miller who skied for 36 seconds before crashing out — more than twice the time he spent on the ice in the giant slalom at 15.90 seconds.
"With this type of snow, the skis were not responding very well for him so it's very difficult to get his feeling on the skis and that's how it goes sometimes," said Miller's American coach, Will Gregorak. "You hoped that it wouldn't happen in the Olympics, but that's ski racing and that's the nature of the sport, and that's slalom racing."
Miller was flagged off at No. 65. In the end, 52 completed the race while one was disqualified. Another one didn't start.
"Skiing is one of those things where you have to think about it as a season-long thing," Gregorak said. "Nobody on any given day can guarantee what will happen to skiers or what they do over a season because there's so much variability, where the Olympics is really the star of all races and that's something we care about a lot."
"But it's still ski racing, you cannot put too much in one race," he added.
Six different skiers won the six World Cup slaloms this season with Strolz hoping to break the norm. He won the third World Cup leg in Adelbodden, Switzerland, last January 29.
Despite failing to match his 72nd-place finish in his Pyeongchang debut four years ago, the Philippine Sports Commission-backed Miller and his coach remained proud of representing the Philippines in winter sports' grandest stage.
"I'm really proud of Asa for the composure he showed this week," Gregorak said. "The difficult hills, the difficult conditions and all the work and focus he put on to it — that's all about being an athlete."
"You cannot guarantee the result but Asa proved to be a formidable Olympian," he added.
Philippine Ski and Snowboard Federation president Jim Apelar said he also remained proud of Miller for keeping the Philippines — a tropical country — on the Winter Olympics map.
"It's disappointing, but that's part of the game and there's nothing to be ashamed of," Apelar said. "We are here for a couple of things: competition and representation. So we can see positive things. We were able to raise positive things by raising our flag in the Olympics."