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Another Day, Another Medal For Lindsey Vonn

Another Day, Another Medal For Lindsey Vonn

[ Sat, 2010-02-20 18:11 ]
Vonn celebrates her second medal of the 2010 Games, a bronze in the super G
Both Julia Mancuso and Lindsey Vonn spent time in first position in the women's super G Saturday. But only Lindsey held on to claim a medal after impressive performances by the rest of the field.

Today, the Austrian coach set the women’s super G course, and today Austrian Andrea Fischbacher walked away with the gold and the country’s first alpine medal of these games. Coincidence? FIS and Olympic rules are such that each course—except the downhill—is set by a randomly selected country’s delegate, usually a coach. Naturally, the delegate sets the courses to favor their athletes’ strengths. But after watching today’s intense and extremely close competition, it would impugn Fischbacher’s performance to write off the win as a coincidence. Skiing toward the middle of the pack of seated racers, Fishbacher held nothing back, skiing with Bode-esque abandon.

For the first quarter of the women’s super G competition Saturday, it looked like American Julia Mancuso might pull off another medal miracle. Despite her unfavorable number-one start slot, changing visibility and a mistake on the tricky Daytona-like Frog Bank turn, she charged across the finish line in a time of 1:21.50. That would keep her in first place as the next 10 skiers struggled to hold their lines on the very fast, very technical Franz’s course. It wasn’t until the 12th skier, super combined gold medalist Maria Reisch from Germany, came into the lower section of the course that Julia lost her grip on the top spot. Coming into the Frog Bank, Reisch was .70 seconds behind Mancuso, but she picked up enough speed through the turn and in the lower section to finish .04 seconds ahead of Mancuso in 1:21.46. The course continued to get faster. Austria’s Elizabeth Goergl, skiing 16th came across the finish line in 1:21.14, briefly claiming the top spot. But up next was Lindsey Vonn.

Blazing fast out of the gate, after just ten seconds on course, Vonn was .32 ahead of the pace, and she’d continue to pick up speed as she put down a virtually flawless run. Vonn was the first skier of the day to master the course top to bottom, though she slowed considerably on the bottom half of the course. "Once I got past those difficult sections, I kind of backed off the gas pedal," Vonn said in an interview with NBC. "I felt like I just didn't ski as aggressively as I could have, and I think that's where I lost the race." Vonn, who was the first of the medal winners to ski, also struggled with early light conditions that cast shadows over some portions of the course and bright sunlight over others. That can be tricky for skiers when they pass from one section to the other so quickly. When Vonn flew past the finish line in a time of 1:20.88, it seemed impossible that another skier could put down such a clean and fast line. Just two skiers later, Andrea Fischbacher of Austria did. She stormed the course and knocked Vonn into second position, and two skiers after her, Tina Maze of Slovenia squeezed in to take the silver, the country’s first Olympic medal—ever. In the end, Vonn finished with a bronze medal, holding off other seated contenders including Anja Paerson, who finished in 11th place.

Vonn has the World Cup super-G title already wrapped up, and Andrea Fischbacher is two spots back in third.