Vonn's Crash Derails Mancuso's Bid, Too

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The already icy and ultra-competitive relationship between U.S. skiing phenoms Lindsey Vonn and Julia Mancuso took a sharp turn for the worse Wednesday.

Mancuso, Vonn's lifelong rival, was forced to restart her run of the women's giant slalom because she began while Vonn was tangled up in blue netting after crashing in the previous run. Mancuso, exhausted by her repeat effort, finished in 18th place.

"I was kind of thinking, like, 'Is this really happening?' It was hard to kind of wrap my head around it," Mancuso said, "just because it's something that I would not expect, ever."

Just a few days earlier, Mancuso, 25, told Sports Illustrated she thought the U.S. ski team was being hurt by a "popularity contest."

"People are having a hard time reaching their potential because it's such a struggle for attention," Mancuso told Sports Illustrated on Sunday. "You come to meetings after races and it's like it's a bad day if Lindsey didn't do well."

Vonn, also 25, told Reuters she was "bummed out" by Mancuso's comments and said she supported her teammate.

Vonn, the 17th racer during Wednesday's event, crashed during her run, breaking a finger, bruising a shin and ending her latest medal bid. Mancuso, in the 18th starting position, charged the course immediately following Vonn but was flagged down by an official since her teammate and emergency course workers were at risk. Heavy fog and and poor conditions forced organizers to send skiers out of the gate with smaller gaps between runs. If weather had been clear, as it had been for most of the previous week, more lag time between the skiers would have been allowed.

Asked about the limited intervals prior to the race, Mancuso said: "A lot of us were like, 'Oh, that's kind of nice. Because it gets it over with, and with the bad weather coming in, it's nice to get out there and ski a race. That's the downside, too. When things go bad, you don't have the extra timeframe to make sure that everything will run smoothly."

Race director Atle Skaardal defended the smaller intervals and the decision to split the giant slalom into a two-day event rather than scrapping Wednesday's program.

"I don't see why we should cancel the first run," Skaardal said. "It was a fair and good first run. Why should we take it away?"

Skardaal said there wasn't enough time to stop Mancuso from leaving the gate.

"The fact that I wasn't flagged earlier or they weren't able to get her out of the way in time -- it's just a ridiculous situation," said Mancuso, whose final event in the Olympics is the giant slalom.
Mancuso, who eventually re-ran the course as the 31st skier in worsening conditions, finished 1.30 seconds behind leader Elisabeth Goergl of Austria.

"Even if I stopped at the top, when they realized, 'Oh, she looks hurt,' then at least I'm only skiing 10 seconds, and I can figure out a way to get back up," Mancuso said. "We're pushing 100 percent or more for 50 seconds -- that's like running an extra 400-meter sprint and then having to go up five minutes later and do it again."

After finishing the nightmarish day, Mancuso fell onto her back before sitting upright and trudging off in tears.

"I know she was disappointed, and I know that she was mad, and probably frustrated, and probably mad at me," Vonn said at the bottom of the hill while holding ice on her throbbing right pinkie. "But I can't help that I fell. I wanted to finish."

Shortly after her run, Mancuso posted an angry tweet with an obscenity. Several minutes later, she filed a cleaned-up dispatch: "that yellow flag in the GS was such... I just want to scream. I'm really miffed. Anyway, gotta take that energy and focus it for 2nd run."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.