Matthias Mayer grew up in Austria admiring plenty of Alpine skiers, from his medal-winning dad, to all-time great Hermann Maier, to a couple of guys he races against these days, Bode Miller and Aksel Lund Svindal.
Unexpectedly, Mayer now can call himself something none of those others can: Olympic downhill champion.
"It's amazing to be an Olympic champion," he said.
Four years after ski-loving Austria departed the Winter Games with zero men's Alpine medals for the first time, Mayer made his nation 1 for 1 in 2014, upstaging prerace favorites Miller and Svindal by charging down the course in 2 minutes, 6.23 seconds Sunday to win gold in the sport's premier event.
And to think: In 65 previous World Cup or world championship races, the 23-year-old Mayer never had finished first. He'd never fared better than fifth in a downhill.
"He's not an experienced guy," Austrian men's coach Mathias Berthold said, "so you never know what he's going to do."
But from the moment Mayer saw the Rosa Khutor slope in Thursday's opening training run, he sensed his Olympic debut would go spectacularly well.
"I was very self-confident this week," said Mayer, whose father, Helmut, won the super-G silver at the 1988 Calgary Games. "The turns are just right for me. And the hill is just right for me."
But just barely. He edged silver medalist Christof Innerhofer of Italy by only 0.06 seconds and bronze medalist Kjetil Jansrud of Norway by 0.10.
Asked if he was bothered by missing out on the gold by such a slim margin, Innerhofer replied: "I'm not even thinking about that. I'm just happy to have a medal."
Norway's Svindal was fourth, 0.19 slower than Jansrud. Miller came in eighth, three spots behind U.S. teammate Travis Ganong.
"I'm disappointed to not have a better result next to my name. It's one of those days where it's hard to say where the time went, because I skied pretty well. I was really aggressive, took a lot of risk," said the 36-year-old Miller, whose five career Olympic Alpine medals are a U.S. record. "I made a couple of small mistakes, but not really mistakes that cost you a lot of time."
He was more than a half-second slower than Mayer, who started 11th of 50 racers and smiled broadly when he saw No. 15 Miller's result. Mayer, Miller said, "doesn't really change if the visibility goes bad, and that was a huge advantage today. I had to change a lot from the training runs to today, just not being able to see the snow up there."
U.S. men's coach Sasha Rearick, though, hit on another point.
"It was a combination of things," Rearick said. "A little bit the weather -- and wanting it too much."
If Mayer is unfamiliar to most outside the skiing world, he was certainly a known quantity to folks such as Miller and Svindal. Known better for his skill at super-G, in which he has two second-place World Cup finishes, Mayer was third in training Thursday, and fastest Friday, before easing up to save some energy Saturday.
When Svindal was asked during the week to point to opponents that worried him, he mentioned Mayer. So after Mayer's victory, Svindal was asked why.
"Because I looked at the times in training, and he was super-consistent," said Svindal, who started 18th, when the snow was softer than during Mayer's run. "Bode was fast. I was fast. But he was the most consistent of us all."
Ski jumping: In control from the start, Kamil Stoch of Poland won the gold in the men's normal hill individual ski jump. Stoch had the best jump in each round, securing Poland's first Olympic ski jumping gold medal since Wojciech Fortuna won the large hill at the 1972 Olympics.
Peter Prevc of Slovenia took the silver, and bronze went to Anders Bardal of Norway.
Speedskating: Irene Wust gave the Netherlands its second victory by winning the 3,000. Skating before her king and queen, Wust won in 4:34. Defending champ Martina Sablikova of the Czech Republic took the silver, and Olga Graf won bronze for Russia's first medal of the games. Claudia Pechstein, 41 and a six-time Olympian, was fourth.
Wust, her nails red, white and blue like the Dutch flag, held up three fingers, signifying her third Olympic gold medal.
Luge: Felix Loch, still only 24, did it again. The German luger won his second straight Olympic gold medal, leaving the rest of the field in his icy wake. Loch completed four runs down the Sanki Sliding Center track in 3:27.562 -- 0.476 seconds ahead of Russia's Albert Demchenko, who won the silver in his seventh Olympics. Italy's Armin Zoeggeler won the bronze, giving him a record six medals in six games.
Cross-country: Switzerland's Dario Cologna had ankle surgery in November, but that now seems ancient. He won the 30-kilometer skiathlon, pulling away at the top of the last uphill section. The three-time overall World Cup winner claimed his second Olympic gold medal.
Biathlon: Slovakia's Anastasiya Kuzmina matched her gold from Vancouver in the women's 7.5-kilometer sprint. The silver medal went to Russia's Olga Vilukhina and the bronze to Ukraine's Vita Semerenko. Kuzmina's brother is Russian biathlete Anton Shipulin, who was fourth Saturday.