Germany's Riesch skis to another win U.S. hockey routs Finland
WHISTLER, British Columbia — The golden girl of women's skiing at the Winter Olympics isn't Lindsey Vonn. It's her best friend, Maria Riesch.
"Yeah, she's the champion now," Austria ski federation president Peter Schroecksnadel said. "That's how it is at the Olympics."
Riesch finished off the "best day of my life" by skiing through driving snow to win the slalom, the final women's Alpine event at the Vancouver Games. Vonn, who was supposed to be the breakout star of Vancouver, missed a gate and failed to finish the first run.
Riesch goes home to Germany with two gold medals, the slalom and the super-combined, while Vonn settles for gold in downhill and bronze in super-combined.
So often locked in combat on the slopes, they ended their Olympics in a warm embrace near the finish line.
Vonn was quick to greet her fellow 25-year-old after Riesch sloshed through snow, fog and a rapidly softening race surface yesterday to successfully defend her first-run advantage under a strong challenge by Marlies Schild of Austria. Schild was 0.43 second back for silver, adding to her bronze in slalom at the 2006 Turin Games, and Sarka Zahrobska of the Czech Republic trailed by 1.01 to get the bronze.
"Awesome," Vonn told her friend and rival. "I'm so proud of you."
Skiing at her first Olympics, Riesch kept improving after finishing a tentative eighth in the downhill. But Riesch skied more like the reigning slalom world champion and World Cup leader in her best event.
"I really can't describe how good it feels," Riesch said.
Slalom figured to be Vonn's weakest event, especially after the Feb. 2 training spill in Austria that deeply bruised her right shin. Then she broke her right pinkie when crashing out of Wednesday's giant slalom.
Vonn straddled a gate on the upper half of the course in her first run and failed to finish for the third time in five medal events.
Reisch's 22-year-old sister, Susanne, was fourth after the first run but crashed out near the end just as she had a chance to take the lead in the afternoon.
"Fortunately, I didn't get (that news) at the start. That would have not been good for me, for sure," Maria said.
"It's so hard now because I'm so totally happy on the best day of my life actually. For (Susanne), the whole world is breaking down," she said. "Maybe tonight we can go out for a beer. For her it's best to forget this day as soon as possible."