The historic momentum of the US ski team at the Vancouver Olympics came to an abrupt halt Wednesday when Lindsey Vonn crashed in the Giant Slalom, taking not only herself but teammate Julia Mancuso out of medal contention.
Mancuso, who started just behind Vonn, was having a promising race when her teammate crashed. An official on the course then waved a yellow flag at Mancuso, signaling that she had to stop her run – during which she had been leading the competitive field.
While Mancuso was allowed to redo her run, the course had become more rutted by the time she started again – already taxed by an all-out attempt the first time around. She finished 1.3 seconds behind the leader, putting her in 18th for the first of two runs.
“I feel terrible…. With course conditions deteriorating like they were, it was hard for her to come down with a fast run,” said Vonn afterward, acknowledging that she had hurt reigning Olympic champion Mancuso’s shot at getting another medal in the event. “It’s really hard [to start over], especially in GS. You’re so physically tired, and all the wax is off your skis. … She had a huge disadvantage.”
Second run postponed
As it turns out, Mancuso will have a day to recoup for the final run, which was scheduled for Wednesday afternoon but postponed until Thursday by bad weather. Still, it’s unlikely she’ll be able to catch the trio of Austrians who again boosted the team’s spirits with first-, third-, and fourth-place finishes in the first run after the men got shut out of the medals yesterday for the fourth time.
Vonn had attacked the top section of the course, which was shrouded in thick fog, and was 0.35 seconds up on Elisabeth Goergel, who posted today's fastest run, at the third and final interval split. She was still charging hard when she caught her outside ski in the soft snow and spun around before crashing into the blue safety netting.
“I was like a pretzel in the nets,” said Vonn, who couldn’t get untangled quickly enough for Mancuso to be allowed to stay on course. Normally the interval between racers is longer, but due to the bad weather, officials decided to start the racers closer together to try to get the first run completed while conditions permitted. That’s why Mancuso was unaware Vonn had crashed, and was allowed to complete much of her run before being flagged.
Yesterday, Bode Miller crashed out of the GS, ruining his shot at a fourth medal in what has been a stellar Games for him nevertheless. And reigning Olympic champion Ted Ligety finished a disappointing ninth.
The Mancuso-Vonn mishap may complicate an already difficult team situation, which Mancuso described in a Sports Illustrated interview as revolving around Vonn to the detriment of other skiers.
But Vonn, who was arguably the most vaunted athlete not only on the US Ski Team but on the US Olympic team coming into these Games, said Mancuso’s negative comments haven’t affected how she approaches the team.
“I try to support Julia as much as I try to support everyone else on the team,” she said. “It definitely hurt me that she’s said some negative things about me but all I can do is keep supporting her.”