Vonn straddles slalom gate, misses chance at final medal

Seattle TimesFebruary 26, 2010 

USA's Lindsey Vonn went off course during the women's slalom, ending her Olympic run. (Steve Ringman/Seattle Times/MCT)

WHISTLER, British Columbia — Good thing Lindsey Vonn got her gold out of the way early.

After winning an Olympic title in her signature event, the downhill, Vonn took bronze in the super-G. Things went, well, downhill from there.

Vonn skied off course after straddling, then missing a gate, early in the first run of slalom Friday morning to end her 2010 Olympic Games.

"I came out of the starting gate charging," Vonn said Friday. "But I haven't been skiing a lot of slalom and hit some mashed potato-snow and it was over before I knew it."

Vonn's good friend Maria Riesch of Germany won the slalom in a two-run combined time of 1 minute, 42.89 seconds to collect her second gold of the Games after her super-combined victory. Vonn was waiting at the finish to give her a hug.

Austria's Marlies Schild took silver, 43-hundredths of a second behind Riesch. Czech Republic's Sarka Zahrobska was third, 1.01 back.

The top American was Sarah Schleper of Vail, Colo., in 16th place, 2.99 seconds behind Riesch.

Riesch's victory is the first for Germany in Olympic women's slalom in 12 years, since Hilde Gerg took gold in Nagano in 1998.

"It had to be hard for her today because of her finger injury," Riesch said of Vonn. "Her confidence in her slalom this year was not so great, but it was a good Games for her. I hope she is able to go home happy."

After five events, the Vonn box score: one gold, one bronze, three did-not-finishes. Pre-Olympic hype had Vonn going for five medals, but Vonn wasn't among the favorites to medal in giant slalom or slalom. She led the super-combined after the downhill portion, but clipped a gate and did not finish.

"I have the gold medal I came here for and I could not be happier," Vonn said. "I was contemplating stopping after my crash in the giant slalom, but that is just not who I am. But I have that gold medal, and despite everyone else's expectations, my goal was to win one gold medal and that is what I did."

Vonn's two medals matched teammate Julia Mancuso, whose silvers in downhill and super-combined were a surprise after injuries and equipment trouble kept her off the World Cup podium the past two seasons.

The pair's four medals were part of the record medal haul of eight won by the U.S. alpine team. That topped the previous best at a single Games, five, in 1984 on a team led by twins Phil and Steve Mahre and Debbie Armstrong.

Mancuso, the 2006 Olympic giant slalom champion, did not enter the slalom, an event she has not skied well recently. She finished eighth after the giant slalom Thursday and later downplayed a reported rift between she and Vonn.

In an interview with si.com, Mancuso said all the attention Vonn has received was bad for the team dynamic. Vonn said she was "hurt" by "some negative things" Mancuso said.

A day later, Mancuso tried to diffuse the situation.

"The way that it came across, that it was a media-attention fight or something like that, is just ridiculous," Mancuso told reporters.

Mancuso said Vonn, the only U.S. female skier to win two World Cup overall titles, was "the greatest female American skier we've had" and that her comments had been blown out of proportion.

Vonn's Games began with the most-talked-about Olympic leg injury since Nancy Kerrigan. Vonn skied the entire Olympics with a severely bruised shin suffered in training before the Games.

In slalom, Vonn, 25, added a broken right pinkie and a sore back to the list after a hard fall in the first run of giant slalom two days before.

"I just feel tired," she said Friday.

VONN AT THE GAMES

Feb. 17/Downhill/Gold
Feb. 18/Super combined/DNF
Feb. 20/Super-G/Bronze
Feb. 25/Giant slalom/DNF
Feb. 26/Slalom/DNF

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