By The Associated Press
WHISTLER, British Columbia — Men’s downhill world champion John Kucera is working at Whistler as an Alpine race analyst for Canadian television after ditching his crutches just in time for the games.
Kucera won’t compete at his home Olympics because he broke his left leg in a World Cup race crash at Lake Louise, Alberta, last December.
The 25-year-old racer has been rehabbing the injury and got back on his feet just in time.
“I’ve started walking a week ago and things are moving along,” Kucera told The Associated Press.
Kucera should have been a leading contender for Canada’s first-ever gold in a men’s Alpine event, in the delayed downhill rescheduled for Monday and the super-G set for Friday.
“To lose him in an Olympic year at home was very hard to take,” Canada Alpine director Max Gartner said. “He gave us a lot of firepower and he was in the form of his life.”
Kucera will watch Monday’s race from the CTV studio in downtown Whistler.
Who’s his outside bet? The one to come out of the pack and snatch the gold as he did in Val d’Isere, France, a year ago?
That’ll be Jan Hudec, the oft-injured teammate who’ll get his Olympic start in a four-man team because of Kucera’s misfortune.
“I kind of get the feeling he’s been saving himself for a big race,” Kucera said of his fellow Calgary native.
MOM KNOWS BEST: If Canadian downhiller Britt Janyk wants some feedback on how the weather-worn Whistler course is shaping up, all she has to do is call her mother.
Janyk’s mom, Andree, is part of the volunteer crew preparing and grooming the course for a women’s training run tentatively scheduled first thing Monday morning, followed by the men’s downhill race — the opening Alpine competition at the Vancouver Games.
The rainy and snowy weather conditions over recent days have left sections of the slope a slushy mess. The women’s training session was called off Sunday for a third straight time as once again warm temperatures produced a mixture of rain and snow.
But Janyk’s mom has been part of a bevy of volunteers getting up early to work on the course and make it raceable.
“She’s out there more than I am right now,” Britt Janyk said. “Thankfully, it’s a hill I really know and feel comfortable on.”
Understandable, since she grew up racing on this mountain. Still, it’s good to have an inside track to up-to-the-minute information.
“I definitely have her number on quick dial and have stayed in touch with her,” Janyk said, laughing.
MILLER’S OLD NUMBER: Ryan Miller’s got his old number back in preparing to make his Olympic debut.
The U.S. men’s hockey team goaltender will be wearing No. 39, the same one he wore while setting numerous college records at Michigan State.
It’s a number Miller knew he would have to give up after being selected in the fifth round of the 1999 NHL draft by the Buffalo Sabres. No. 39 was the number former Sabres star goalie Dominik Hasek wore.
So Miller elected to go with No. 30 when he signed with Buffalo in 2002. That way, he would avoid drawing any comparisons between him and Hasek.
“I wanted my own career,” Miller said Sunday.
As it turns out, Miller couldn’t wear No. 30 at the Winter Games — it’s fellow U.S. goalie Tim Thomas’ number. And Thomas got first choice because, at 35, he’s six years older than Miller.
The U.S. holds its first practice on Monday, before opening the games against Switzerland on Tuesday.
SILENT TREATMENT: Canadian-bred Chinese women’s curling coach Dan Rafael disagrees with the word from above him that his athletes not talk to the media before their competition begins Tuesday.
The women, considered among the favorites in these games, are keeping quiet about their Olympic chances.
This is very un-curlinglike for a sport that prides itself on sportsmanship and keeping tradition.
“It’s just directives from higher up,” Rafael said. “They were told they have a choice to speak or not, leaning more to the not than the speak. I’ll just put it that way.”
Li Dongyan, team leader for China and secretary general of the country’s curling federation, told World Curling Federation spokeswoman Joanna Kelly the policy is in place to help players avoid distraction. They will be able to speak to the media after events.
Chinese skip Wang Fengchun walked through the mixed zone after training and said, “Not today, not today.” Li followed and said, “After games.”
“It does (bother me) very much because it’s not the way I work. It’s not the way I live,” Rafael said.
HALFPIPE SOFTENED UP: Snowboarders got their first look at the Olympic halfpipe Sunday during the initial training run.
“It’s a little soft right now,” reigning men’s champion Shaun White of the U.S. said. “But I have faith they’re going to figure it out.”
Soft conditions make it harder for snowboarders to pick up enough speed to effectively do their toughest tricks.
American Kelly Clark, the 2002 women’s gold medalist, said she was confident officials would continue to tweak the halfpipe as they get feedback from snowboarders before the competitions take place Wednesday and Thursday.
An end to the rain that has hit Cypress and colder temperatures will help, too.
AP Sports Writers John Wawrow, Graham Dunbar, Rachel Cohen, Pat Graham and Janie McCauley contributed to this report.