Mancuso nabs silver in super combined; Vonn crashes
The Associated Press
WHISTLER, British Columbia – Lindsey Vonn, her bruised shin “killing me,” lost her bid for a second Olympic gold medal Thursday when she hooked her ski on a gate and fell in the slalom leg of the super combined.
Maria Riesch of Germany won the event, helping to atone for her failure to challenge best friend and biggest rival Vonn in Wednesday’s marquee downhill race.
Vonn, who once worried about being able to ski at all in these Olympics, was fastest in the morning downhill run of the super-combined but was visibly in pain after the twisting slalom run on an icy, bumpy course pressed her ski boot against the badly bruised shin.
Last among the leaders to ski in the afternoon slalom, she was 0.07 seconds ahead of Reisch’s pace at the first checkpoint but fell behind by 0.18 seconds on the bottom half of the course. She then failed to get her right ski tip around a right-hand gate, and the ski flipped off before she crashed forward to the snow.
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“It hurts so bad,” Vonn said. “It’s one thing to do the downhill, but the super-combined is really tough on my shin. I tried as hard as I could.”
She will get a day off Friday before her next event, Saturday’s super-G, where she is an overwhelming favorite. She also is entered in the giant slalom and slalom next week.
Riesch had a total time of 2 minutes, 09.14 seconds to beat Julia Mancuso of the United States by 0.94 seconds. Mancuso got her second silver medal after being runner-up to Vonn in the downhill. Anja Paerson of Sweden took the combined bronze, 1.05 behind Riesch.
Vonn, the two-time defending World Cup overall champion who lives and trains in Vail, was injured in a Feb. 2 training crash in Austria but benefited from weather delays that wreaked havoc with the Alpine schedule the first six days of the Vancouver Games, wiping out most training and races. The super-combined was originally scheduled for last Sunday.
Vonn said her leg was as sore as ever after Wednesday’s downhill.
“It’s not good. It’s really hurting and I’m just struggling with it,” she said, “but there’s nothing really I can do. I just have to try to do therapy and try to tough it out today, and then tomorrow will be a good day off,” she said.
Vonn said her downhill run in the morning was solid but she struggled to find energy, less than 24 hours after an emotionally exhausting victory in her signature event.
“It was a long, long day yesterday, and I didn’t get as much rest as I was hoping for,” she said. “Especially with my shin, I need a little bit more time and therapy to try to get it to feel better.”
Vonn struggled in slalom this season even before the shin injury. She has failed to complete a two-run race in four of seven World Cup events, and her best result was runner-up behind Riesch at the opener last November in Levi, Finland.
Riesch, who trailed Vonn by 0.33 after the downhill run Thursday, punched the air and pressed her hands to her goggles in delight when she saw her time.
“I really can’t believe I did it,” she said.
Riesch came into this, her first Olympics as the biggest threat to Vonn’s predicted domination of the women’s Alpine events but was a disappointing eighth in the downhill.
“I was really nervous. That was the problem for the downhill,” she said. “Today I was much more calm, more confident.”
She had an anxious moment in the combined downhill, run on a shortened course with the final jump shaved down after a series of ugly crashes Wednesday. She got too much air in a small jump before the halfway point and veered momentarily off course before correcting her race line.
Mancuso moved up a place after being third-fastest in the downhill leg. She jumped for joy after finishing her slalom run and then fell back on the snow, her skis in the air.
Mancuso got the first U.S. medal in women’s Olympic combined or super-combined since Gretchen Fraser’s silver at the 1948 St. Moritz Games, and also became the fifth American woman to win two Alpine medals in the same Olympics.
The 25-year-old skier from Squaw Valley, Calif., still has arguably her best event to come, next Wednesday, when she will defend the giant slalom title she won in Turin four years ago.
Paerson’s sixth career Olympic medal was reward for returning to the course 24 hours after crashing badly and injuring her left calf on the final jump Wednesday.
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