SNOWBASIN, Utah – Picabo Street, her star-spangled ponytail flapping as she sped down the Wildflower course, failed to crack the top 10 in her Olympic finale Tuesday.
Street, trying to become the first American woman to win three Olympic skiing medals, had the best time at the top of the mountain but lost speed in the middle of the course as she fought to control her skis.
The winner was a shocker. Carole Montillet of France, who has never won a World Cup downhill, had a nearly mistake-free run to win in 1 minute, 39.56 seconds.
Isolde Kostner of Italy was second in 1:40.01, and Renate Goetschl of Austria won bronze in 1:40.39 in a race postponed from Monday because of high winds. The start of the race also was delayed more than two hours Tuesday by gusting winds.
Montillet's victory was salve for a French squad that has been in mourning since the October death of team leader Regine Cavagnoud, who was killed in a training accident.
Montillet, 28, went to San Diego for a few days before the Olympics, leaving the World Cup circuit, telling friends she needed to get away from the repeated questions about Cavagnoud.
It was remarkable that Street, 30, was even racing.
A month after her victory in the super giant slalom at the 1998 Nagano Games, she broke her left leg and mangled her right knee in a crash and was off skis for 21 months.
She got off to a good start Tuesday, posting the best results at the first two timing spots and quickly getting into the tight tuck position that allows her to glide so quickly down hills.
But she flew a bit high at the first of the course's jumps and then struggled to maintain her balance as she left a trial of snow in her wake. She also was too high off the second jump, losing crucial time.
After she crossed the finish line, she stared at the scoreboard in disbelief and then lowered her head. But then she waved both hands to the wildly cheering crowd and blew fans kisses through her helmet.
Street was trying to become the first U.S. skier to win medals in three Olympics. She won the silver in the downhill at Lillehammer in 1994 and a gold in the Super G in 1998.
The prospect of an Olympic farewell on home snow motivated her through her comeback, a process she was all too familiar with after blowing out a knee twice before.
Street will not defend her Super G title — other Americans have far better results in that event this winter. The downhill was her Olympic farewell, and maybe the end of her skiing career.
She is retiring after this season, but may compete at the national championships in Squaw Valley, Calif., in March.