Women's super-G: Austria revels in gold as Vonn takes bronze
At the women's super-G, Austria's Andrea Fischbacher bested favorite Lindsey Vonn and raised her ski-crazy nation's spirits with gold. Vonn said she 'stopped charging' after an initially dominant run.
Whistler, British Columbia
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Besting a gutsy run by Tina Maze of Slovenia and a strong performance by gold-medal favorite Lindsey Vonn, Fischbacher doused the flames of fury back home generated by disappointing performances from the men’s squad.
With 14 medals at the 2006 Games, Austria came into these Olympics as a heavy favorite – albeit one strongly rivaled by a resurgent Swiss team. But it has been US skiers who have matched the brilliance of the sun here, winning roughly half the medals so far. And that made a country whose pride rides on its racers’ skis very upset.
“There is so much pressure in Austria. Nobody cared when the men’s luge doubles won the country’s first gold,” says Tino Teller, an Austrian journalist covering alpine skiing here. “Everybody back home was asking, ‘When will be the first gold in alpine? The whole nation was sitting in front of the TV at 5, 6, 7 p.m., waiting.”
Fischbacher knew that when she stepped into the gate today.
“The men yesterday had a really bad day,” said the Austrian, who missed bronze in the downhill by only 0.03 seconds. “Everybody was looking a little bit to us to make it better."
And did she ever. Though trailing Vonn on the tricky top section of the course, she floored it through the middle section to finish 0.74 seconds ahead of the US favorite.
“It’s very important for the spirit of the whole team,” says Herbert Mandl, head coach for the women’s team. “For sure the men suffered yesterday, and we suffered with them."
Vonn: I'll cherish bronze and gold equally
After the last racer came down, a smiling Vonn stepped onto the podium waving to a crowd full of American flags – celebrating her second medal this week after overcoming a shin injury that cast a shadow over America’s most vaunted athlete coming into these Games.
She laid down a dominant run at the top of the course, skiing very well through a turn that gave many racers – including teammate Julia Mancuso, who finished 9th – serious trouble. But after that, she said, she backed off.
“I think I just stopped charging … that was my only mistake – just not attacking as much as I could have and should have,” she said, adding that her bronze was still an Olympic medal – and joking that it was almost the same color as the gold she won in downhill. “They’ll be hanging up next to my bed and I will cherish both of those medals equally.”