KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia -- America's grip on the men's super-combined ski race ended in the mush Friday at the Rosa Khutor Alpine Center.
Reigning Olympic champion Bode Miller and 2006 gold medalist Ted Ligety couldn't find the magic on a bumpy course that left many of the world's top skiers flailing.
It allowed unheralded Sandro Viletta of Switzerland to steal the gold while slalom expert Ivica Kostelic of Croatia became the first alpine skier to win four Olympic silver medals -- and he did it on a course set by his father, Ante Kostelic.
Meanwhile, Miller was sixth and Ligety, the current world champion in the combined event, struggled with the lower portion of the slalom run to finish 12th. Olympic newcomer Jared Goldberg of Salt Lake City had a solid run to take 11th.
Small victories are about all the American alpine ski team can celebrate midway through the Sochi Games. The men and women have disappointed with Squaw Valley's Julia Mancuso earning the only medal -- a bronze -- thus far.
"As a team, we skied defensive and we're looking forward to moving forward and attacking," U.S. men's coach Sasha Rearick said.
Ligety, 29, just didn't go hard enough in the slalom after finishing 18th in the downhill portion of the two-run race.
"I could have gone way, way harder," he said. "I'd much rather blown out being on the line of being too fast than do what I did today."
Ligety, who won three races at the 2013 World Championships, respected the course too much after inspecting it before he left the gate.
"I didn't think it would take a run that was 100 percent to come down and get a medal," he said.
Miller offered excuses after finishing eighth in the men's downhill earlier this week. But the most decorated U.S. Olympic alpine skier with five medals looked no further than himself Friday.
He chastised himself after the downhill, which was moved up an hour to avoid the late-morning sun. The poor run cost him too much time to make up in the slalom, an event he hasn't raced much in recent years.
"I don't have enough confidence in my slalom to go out and just pin it," he said. "I tried anyway because that's what I had to do to be on the podium. I just made a lot of little errors. The errors were really weird, too."
Miller, 36, described the time-eating mistakes as invisible while watching the event.
"But when you're skiing, you feel them," he added. "The snow was really responsive so the skis just pull back underneath you. You feel your speed go."
And with it, any chance of revitalizing America's ski prowess.
Miller's combined time of 2 minutes, 46.60 seconds was 1.40 seconds behind Viletta, who became the first Swiss man to win the super-combined.
Not that it provided any solace, but Miller earned his ninth top-10 Olympic placing -- tying him with Lasse Kjus of Norway for second in history. The record of 13 is held by Norwegian great Kjetil Andre Aamodt.
America's ski stars focused on what they did wrong Friday in terrible conditions. The T-shirt weather has turned Sochi into a place for spring break more than the Winter Olympics.
Miller said he and Ligety guarded the front of their skis too much.
"You just feel your speed, it's a pretty brutal feeling," Miller said. "I knew halfway down I had to start taking risks, but I couldn't really get the rhythm."
Viletta, 28, had no problems finding his.
"It was a perfect run for me," he said of the slalom.
Bronze medalist Christof Innerhofer of Italy also was celebratory after earning his second medal of the Sochi Games. He finished second in the men's downhill and is running laps around the U.S. team in the Caucasus Mountains.
Contact Elliott Almond at 408-920-5865. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/elliottalmond.
American skiers Bode Miller (left) and Ted Ligety (right) had high expectations in the super-combined at the Sochi Games. Entering as the past two champions of the event, Ligety and Miller finished out of the medals Friday. Here's a look at how they've fared in the event at the Winter Games:
2002 2006 2010 2014
Ligety -- Gold Fifth 12th
Miller Silver DQ Gold Sixth