The Sochi Olympics produced an exciting women's downhill competition with a dramatic dead heat, as Dominique Gisin and Tina Maze both shared the gold medal with two magnificent performances.
Swiss racer Gisin clocked a pace-setting time of 1 minute, 41.57 seconds as the eighth competitor to run in the race, only for Slovenian ace Maze to equal her time in the 21st run.
Lara Gut of Switzerland claimed the bronze medal, missing out on the gold by only one tenth of a second.
American superstar Julia Mancuso, who took third in the super combined on Monday, could only finish down in eighth position in a time of 1:42.56 after a messy run from the former Olympic champion. Super combined winner Maria Hoefl-Riesch of Germany disappointed as she placed in 13th.
|Women's Downhill Skiing Top 10|
|6||Lotte Smiseth Sejersted||Norway||1:42.01|
Alexandra Coletti of Monaco, meanwhile, was injured following a dangerous crash. She had to be treated and airlifted from the course, which caused the race to be significantly delayed.
Hilary Evans tweeted about the skier's injury and condition:
With American legend Lindsey Vonn sidelined with injury, the competition became an open affair, with several women having a realistic opportunity to win gold.
Gisin only placed in 10th in the super combined, per sochi2014.com, so it would appear she increased her performance considerably to claim her joint-winning run in the downhill. Maze, though, had been one of the favourites for the gold medal along with Gut prior to the event, and she produced her best on Wednesday.
Vancouver double-silver medalist Maze had come to Sochi in competitive form. With a feisty showing in the downhill portion of the super combined, she was always going to be a medal threat.
After injury forced Gut to miss the Vancouver Games, her sights set immediately to Sochi. She has been a major player on the World Cup circuit since she was only 15 years old; her speed and precision made her many experts' favourite.
But she had to settle for the bronze and will be disappointed to have not won the race.
With no Vonn, this was always a race that would be impossible to call. Mancuso would have made it a fairytale ending had she been able to produce her best, but unfortunately, the mountain was too high for her to climb on this occasion.
Gisin's performance to place herself on the podium was simply incredible, and she was unlucky not to claim the outright win. David Leon Moore of USA Today quoted the new Olympic co-champion as saying: "She was ahead of me (on the early splits), I knew it was going to be close. When I saw it was a tie, I thought, 'That's OK with me.'"
With the excellence of Maze and Gut as her competition, she more than showed she could match their undoubted class. Gut was so close to claiming the victory, but she just lacked the edge you expect from her racing.
On another day, it likely would have been Gut who prevailed, but Maze and Gisin both produced wonderful runs and fully deserved their place as co-champions.
The shared victory was a first major medal success for Gisin, per the Associated Press' Fred Lief via ABCNews.com, and she can now move forward in her career as one of downhill skiing's elite female athletes. She will join Maze and Gut as the main players to watch on the circuit as they aim to take the baton from the likes of Mancuso and Vonn.
Despite her poor showing in the event on Wednesday, Hoefl-Riesch will still be one of the favourites in future events. Her Wednesday run was mistake-filled and out of character, but she will come back from this disappointment to challenge once again. She is far too good to be discounted in the near future, and her reputation as a fierce competitor will see her back at the top.
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