Winter Olympics spoiler alert: Women's super-combined involving Lindsey Vonn
By GRAHAM DUNBAR
AP Sports Writer
Article on the women's super-combined
WHISTLER, British Columbia — For all the worry about her famously injured shin, it was a common skiing mistake that ended Lindsey Vonn’s bid for a second Olympic gold medal in two days.
Though Vonn’s bruised right leg was “killing me,” she said she simply failed to get her ski around a right-hand gate and fell in the slalom run of the super-combined.
“The shin wasn’t the reason why I didn’t finish the race,” Vonn said. “It was just because I hooked a tip, and that happens in ski racing all the time. I just wish it wasn’t at the Olympic Games.”
Maria Riesch of Germany won the event, helping to atone for her failure to challenge best friend and biggest rival Vonn in Wednesday’s marquee downhill race.
Vonn, who once worried about being able to ski at all in these Olympics, was fastest in the morning downhill run of the super-combined but was visibly in pain after the twisting slalom run on an icy, bumpy course pressed her ski boot against the badly bruised shin.
Last among the leaders to ski in the afternoon slalom, she was 0.07 seconds ahead of Reisch’s pace at the first checkpoint but fell behind by 0.18 seconds on the bottom half of the course. She then straddled a gate, and the ski flipped off before she fell forward to the snow.
Vonn’s husband said the injury was only significant because it kept her from training after a Feb. 2 crash during pre-Olympics practice in Austria.
“It did play a role in the fact that she hasn’t been able to ski slalom in, like, three weeks,” Thomas Vonn said. “She had the mindset of going for gold and it’s the Olympics. That’s what you’re here for, and she’s capable of winning. So she wanted to go for it, and not ski safe and go for a silver or bronze.”
Vonn will get a day off Friday before her next event, Saturday’s super-G, where she is an overwhelming favorite. She also is entered in the giant slalom and slalom next week.
Riesch had a total time of 2 minutes, 09.14 seconds to beat Julia Mancuso of the United States by 0.94 seconds. Mancuso got her second silver medal after being runner-up to Vonn in the downhill.
Anja Paerson of Sweden took the combined bronze, 1.05 behind Riesch. Paerson’s sixth career Olympic medal in just nine starts tied her old rival Janica Kostelic of Croatia for most by a woman in Alpine racing.
Vonn, the two-time defending World Cup overall champion who lives and trains in Vail, Colo., was injured but benefited from weather delays that wreaked havoc with the Alpine schedule the first six days of the Vancouver Games, wiping out most training and races. The super-combined was originally scheduled for last Sunday.
Vonn said her leg was as sore as ever after Wednesday’s downhill.
“It’s not good. It’s really hurting and I’m just struggling with it,” she said, “but there’s nothing really I can do. I just have to try to do therapy and try to tough it out today, and then tomorrow will be a good day off,” she said.
Vonn said her downhill run in the morning was solid but she struggled to find energy, less than 24 hours after an emotionally exhausting victory in her signature event.
“It was a long, long day yesterday, and I didn’t get as much rest as I was hoping for,” she said. “Especially with my shin, I need a little bit more time and therapy to try to get it to feel better.”
Vonn struggled in slalom this season even before the shin injury. She has failed to complete a two-run race in four of seven World Cup events, and her best result was runner-up behind Riesch at the opener last November in Levi, Finland.
Riesch, who trailed Vonn by 0.33 after the downhill run Thursday, punched the air and pressed her hands to her goggles in delight when she saw her time.
“I really can’t believe I did it,” she said.
Riesch came into this, her first Olympics as the biggest threat to Vonn’s predicted domination of the women’s Alpine events but was a disappointing eighth in the downhill.
“I was really nervous. That was the problem for the downhill,” she said. “Today I was much more calm, more confident.”
She had an anxious moment in the combined downhill, run on a shortened course with the final jump shaved down after a series of ugly crashes Wednesday. She got too much air in a small jump before the halfway point and veered momentarily off course before correcting her race line.
Mancuso moved up a place after being third-fastest in the downhill leg. She jumped for joy after finishing her slalom run and then fell back on the snow, her skis in the air.
“When I realized that I got another medal, it was just this crazy. ... It’s that moment you wait for as any athlete,” she said.
It was Mancuso’s best slalom performance of the season, and it was the first U.S. medal in women’s Olympic combined or super-combined since Gretchen Fraser’s silver at the 1948 St. Moritz Games. Mancuso also became the fifth American woman to win two Alpine medals in the same Olympics.
The 25-year-old skier from Squaw Valley, Calif., still has arguably her best event to come, next Wednesday, when she will defend the giant slalom title she won in Turin four years ago.
Paerson’s medal was reward for returning to the course 24 hours after crashing badly and injuring her left calf on the final jump Wednesday.
Paerson said she tried to ski angry at the start of her downhill run Thursday, then “after that I thought one thing, to make that last jump.”
The 28-year-old Swede will be back Saturday chasing a record seventh medal in the super-G.