Vonn's crash keeps her from second Olympic gold

Published February 18, 2010 5:38 pm
Olympics » German skier Maria Riesch wins the women's super-combined event.
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It was the ultimate showdown.

The best downhill skier in the world against the best slalom skier in the world, in an event that combines both disciplines. Close friends, arch rivals and two of the most recognizable names at the Vancouver Olympics, both fighting their own personal challenges.

But this was one battle that Lindsey Vonn couldn't win.

Racing to beat her good friend Maria Riesch, of Germany, the part-time Park City resident crashed in the middle of the slalom portion of the women's super-combined at Whistler Mountain on Thursday, handing the gold medal to Riesch barely one day after beating her for downhill gold.

"It just wasn't my day," Vonn said.

Teammate Julia Mancuso, on the other hand, claimed silver for the second straight day, becoming the first American woman to win three Olympic alpine medals. The defending gold medalist in the giant slalom beat Sweden's Anja Paerson, the seven-time world champion and six-time Olympic medalist who recovered from a scary crash in the downhill Wednesday to finish third.

"I felt like I really had to charge," said Mancuso, who graduated from the Winter Sports School in Park City a decade ago. "And I went for it."

Mancuso screamed for joy when she crossed the finish line, then lost her balance while celebrating and fell on her back. She made the most of it, though, kicking her feet like a giddy schoolgirl. "I have so many friends and family out there," she said, "they were going crazy, and they just make me want to dance around."

Meanwhile, Vonn was far less emotional than after winning the downhill, her best discipline.

She was predictably leading after the downhill portion of the super-combined, but knew that Riesch is the world's top-ranked slalom skier.

Riesch took the lead from Mancusco with a combined time of 2 minutes and 9.14 seconds, but Vonn was next and led by 0.07 seconds after the first checkpoint. She had fallen slightly behind by the time she caught the tip of her right ski and lost it in a crash.

"It happens in slalom," Vonn said. "I was hoping that it wasn't going to happen today, but I gave it my best."

Vonn said her injured right shin played no role in the crash -- U.S. women's coach Jim Tracy called it a mere "bump in the road" -- but that it hurt worse than it had since she returned to training last week. She declined to say for sure whether she will be able to start the women's super-G on Saturday, but hoped that having a day's rest would help.

Riesch believes it will.

Having bounced back for gold after a surprisingly poor showing in the downhill that Vonn won, Riesch said she felt bad for her friend, but that "she has another good chance" in the super-G. Vonn also is scheduled to race the giant slalom and slalom next week, in her attempt to add to her highly anticipated medal haul.

"I could have skied a safe run and still probably got a bronze medal," she acknowledged. "But I didn't really want to do that. I was trying to win a race today, and that's what happens when you're fighting hard. ... That's just life."

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