Gold medalists Maze, Gisin finish in dead heat in downhill

AP, Bloomberg

In a rare tie in Alpine skiing, Tina Maze of Slovenia and Dominique Gisin of Switzerland both won Olympic gold Wednesday in the women’s downhill.

The pair sped down the 2.7-km Rosa Khutor course in 1 minute, 41.57 seconds. Lara Gut of Switzerland was 0.10 behind in third.

For the 28-year-old Gisin, it was only her third downhill victory, but two have been in ties. In January 2009, she shared a World Cup victory with Swedish great Anja Paerson in Altenmarkt, Austria — the last time a women’s downhill ended in a tie.

Wearing bib No. 21, Maze started 30 minutes after No. 8 Gisin as temperatures approached 10 C.

Maze led Gisin at each time split and speed check but then appeared to be slowed by softening snow on the final slope.

Still, Maze stretched both arms overhead and threw her race goggles in the air after seeing that she shared the lead. It’s the best result in a difficult season for the Slovene, who has struggled to match her exceptional 2013 campaign.

“It’s even more interesting because it’s not a usual thing,” Maze said. “It’s something special.”

Though Maze won two silvers at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, Gisin earned her first major medal. She came out of the leader’s box and into the finish area to hug Maze after she completed her run.

Four years ago, Gisin’s Olympic downhill ended when she crashed off the final jump and endured a long slide to the finish line where she hit a bank of snow and was tossed into the air.

This time, the Swiss racer was in tears while taking a celebration call on her mobile phone.

“I’m extremely happy and completely overwhelmed,” said a tearful Gisin.

“It’s a great feeling because Dominique and I are pretty good friends,” Maze told reporters. “We have the same mentality. It’s good to see her winning gold, too. I am very happy for her.”

Starting 13 runners after Gisin on a course that had not broken up, the Slovenian led all the splits but lost a little time after the final jump to come charging through the finish line in a dead heat.The last tie in Olympic skiing happened in men’s super-G at the 1998 Nagano Olympics. Didier Cuche of Switzerland and Hans Knauss of Austria both got silver behind winner Hermann Maier.

On Wednesday, pre-race favorites Maria Hoefl-Riesch of Germany and Julia Mancuso of the United States slipped out of contention, racing after Gisin.

Hoefl-Riesch, who sought a record-equaling fourth Olympic Alpine gold, was 1.17 back in 13th place. Mancuso, who started No. 12, trailed by 0.99 in eighth place after losing more than a half-second in the lower sections.

“It’s actually crazy that it comes down to one-hundredths (of a second) and there is not one-thousandths as a tiebreaker,” Mancsuo said.

Mancuso had been fastest in the downhill portion of the super-combined on Monday, in which she took bronze and Hoefl-Riesch won.

That day, Gut had been second-fastest in the speed discipline before letting a medal slip by skiing out in the slalom leg.

On Wednesday, Gut was in tears for the second time this week, seemingly unable to understand how her speed — clocking 104.4 kph — did not translate to a faster time.

Gut placed her hands on her bowed head and looked exasperated before walking over to hug her winning teammate.

“When you know you could do more it’s normal to be disappointed,” Gut said.

In a nasty crash, No. 4 starter Marie Marchand-Arvier of France slid back-first into safety fencing after losing her balance over a jump. She did not appear to be seriously hurt.