Vonn leads, Shiffrin in mix after downhill leg of combined
By PAT GRAHAM, AP Sports Writer
JEONGSEON, South Korea (AP) — The first — and likely only — Olympic race between Lindsey Vonn and American teammate Mikaela Shiffrin will go down to the wire.
Vonn took care of business in her specialty and has 1.98-second lead over Shiffrin after the downhill portion of Thursday’s Alpine combined.
Now, it switches to Shiffrin’s forte — the slalom. Both times are combined to determine the winner.
Vonn posted the fastest time of 1 minute, 39.37 seconds, with Shiffrin not all that far back in sixth even after what she described as a “big mistake” near the top.
Shiffrin’s signature event is the slalom. She won the Olympic title in the discipline four years ago in Sochi, before finishing fourth in the event at the Pyeongchang Games.
“I want to put out a run that I know I can be really proud of,” Shiffrin said. “So I have a chance to do that this afternoon and I’m looking forward to it.”
Shiffrin is vying for her third career Olympic gold medal, which would be the most in American Alpine skiing history. She also won the giant slalom in Pyeongchang a week ago.
Ragnhild Mowinckel of Norway is 0.74 seconds behind Vonn’s top time in her quest to win a third medal at the Pyeongchang Games. Mowinckel already has two silvers from the giant slalom and downhill.
“I’m a little bit annoyed with myself because I made a few stupid mistakes,” Mowinckel said. “But I have to be pleased that I’m still in a fairly strong position going into the slalom.”
Also in position is Michelle Gisin of Switzerland, who came up as a slalom racer and captured a silver medal in the combined at the world championships last February. Gisin is 0.77 seconds out of the lead.
Vonn, who will start last in the slalom, also led after the downhill leg at the 2010 Vancouver Games. She didn’t finish the slalom that time.
Asked exactly how much slalom training she’s done lately, Vonn smiled, curling her index finger and thumb to make a “0.”
“I took one warmup run going to the slalom inspection in Lenzerheide,” Vonn said, alluding to her fourth-place finish at the World Cup stop in Switzerland in the combined last month. “I took one warmup run going to the race in Lenzerheide. So those are my last two slalom runs. And before that I did one day of slalom training before Christmas. So that’s the extent my slalom training this year.”
This very well could be Vonn’s last race at the Olympics. At 33, she’s already the oldest female Alpine ski racer to earn a medal with her bronze in the downhill on Wednesday. That goes with the gold from the 2010 Games. She didn’t compete at the Sochi Games because of a knee injury.
She won’t be holding back.
“It’s going to come down to who can fight the hardest and I certainly know that I am a pretty good competitor so I’m going to give it hell and maybe I can pull out a miracle,” Vonn said.
Before the race, Vonn posted on her Twitter account that she damaged the bottom of her ski the day before in the downhill and had to bring out another pair. She added of the new set: “Hopefully they’ll survive and stay fast the whole way down.”
“But I think, honestly, my skis had a lot to do with yesterday’s performance, as well,” said Vonn, who finished 0.47 seconds behind winner Sofia Goggia of Italy. “Today, I kept accelerating on the bottom part of the course. And yesterday, I just didn’t. I didn’t feel the speed was there. My technician thinks I burned my skis out, probably on that first traverse there, on the second gate. But that happens often in ski racing.
“Not a lot on the women’s tour, but a lot on the men’s. But I’m happy with the way I executed today. I have absolutely nothing to lose.”
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