- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 24, 2010

WHISTLER, British Columbia (AP) — Lindsey Vonn crashed out of the first run of the Olympic giant slalom race Wednesday and injured her right pinkie.

Vonn’s American teammate Julia Mancuso was the next skier down the mountain and had to pull up midway through her run because Vonn was still on the side of the course.

Mancuso, the defending champion in giant slalom, ended up 18th after starting the opening leg again and was visibly angry over the disturbance.

Vonn lost control around a right turn in the middle section of the course, got twisted around, landed hard on her left hip and crashed backward into the safety netting.

“The course is breaking up at the bottom,” Vonn said, holding ice on her finger, adding that her back and shin were hurting as well. “I got a little bit too inside and lost my outside ski. My knee came up and hit my chin. … I don’t know honestly how I hurt my hand.

“I’m just a little bit beat up right now,” added Vonn, who also fell in the slalom leg of the super-combined last week. “Things don’t seem to be quite going my way.”

After being checked course-side for a few minutes, Vonn got up and skied down to the finish.

Vonn said she was going for an X-ray on her right hand, after which she’ll know if she will race Friday’s slalom, her final event of the games.

“I was like a pretzel — so tangled up,” Vonn said.

Vonn was just getting over a bruised right shin, having opened her Olympics with gold in downhill and bronze in super-G.

While giant slalom is usually Vonn’s worst event, she had posted the fastest split times until her crash.

“I was hoping for something today,” Vonn said. “I was charging, I was skiing hard. I’m disappointed in myself now that I made that mistake. I can only keep smiling. I know I was skiing well.”

Vonn had a difficult starting position, 17th, but was 0.35 second ahead of the pace by first-run leader Elisabeth Goergl of Austria at the third split, just before the crash.

“She was in contention to win. To put four-tenths on this field from No. 17 is incredible,” said Thomas Vonn, the skier’s husband, unofficial coach and chief adviser. “You can win 99 percent of the way and not have anything.”

Vonn’s best career giant slalom finish was fourth in Aspen, Colo., near her home in Vail, last season.

This season, Vonn has had trouble with the conditions on GS courses injected with water to create icier surfaces, and she blamed inconsistent conditions when she hurt her wrist in a fall during a GS in Lienz, Austria, at the end of December.

Conditions were tough this time due to heavy fog and consistent snowfall during the race.

Mancuso was flagged down and had to make her way back up to the top of the course for a later start, which usually is tougher with the course deteriorating as one skier after another comes down.

Restarting is also a test physically and mentally.

“Well now its time to use that anger and fight scond run!!” Mancuso wrote on her Twitter account between runs. “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.”

Vonn said she felt “terrible” for Mancuso, a rival since they were kids.

“She’s mad, she’s frustrated, she’s probably mad at me,” Vonn said. “I feel terrible, and I hope she understands. I definitely didn’t want that to happen.”

The snowfall and low visibility prompted organizers to abandon TV breaks during the run and send racers down the mountain at shorter intervals to get everybody down before conditions worsened.

“I’ve actually never seen anyone be flagged in a GS before,” Vonn said. “It normally doesn’t happen. I think because they were running the intervals so quickly because the weather isn’t cooperating that they did it.

“With the course conditions deteriorating the way they were, it was really difficult for her to come down with a fast time. All I can say is I feel terrible and I really hope she can ski the way she’s been skiing and hopefully have a good second run and punch it back in there.”

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