Gisin and Maze share Gold as Alcott defies the odds to place 19th

Chemmy Alcott in the downhill section of the Super Combined - Copyright Zoom Agence

It was the first time that it has happened at the 2014 Winter Olympic Games but two racers shared the same time to share the Gold medal in the Women’s Olympic Downhill race. … Dominique Gisin from Switzerland and Tina Maze from Slovenia matched each other with Lara Gut taking third place and the bronze medal. Starting after the top 30 and after a long hold to remove Alexandra Coletti who had crashed badly, Chemmy Alcott produced one of the most impressive runs of her career to place 19th.

Gisin, who had won one of the training runs to qualify to race for the Swiss team, had started early and had set the pace. When the top seeds started coming down, one by one they attacked her time but could not better it. Closest came her international team mate, Lara Gut, but she was ten hundredths of a second shy of her time. Daniella Merighetti was in third place all this time, that precarious spot waiting for a trap door to open and be left with nothing.

Maze, starting 21, benefitted from a change in conditions that saw the track speed up. With Mancuso, Hoefl-Riesch and Goergl all having failed to trouble the podium, Gisin could have been forgiven to start thinking that the dream of Olympic Gold would be hers. At all the top splits Maze was ahead. Yet by the time the Slovenian, who had beaten all that came before her last year yet had struggled all season this year, crossed the finish line, the result was a dead heat. After almost one and three quarters of a minute of racing, the clock could not separate the two. Gut moved down to third and trap doot opened for Merighetti.

The Italian was very philosophical about it all as she told Austrian Television start ORF, that “somebody has to be fourth and I am 4th.” Her heart must have been screaming as at the Olympics there are just three medals and nothing for 4th and below.

There is however pride and a good result. Edit Miklos from Hungry produced her countries best Alpine result in coming down from 25 to sixth but this was immediately dropped to seventh when young training partner of Chemmy Alcott came down and went sixth. There are definitely some new names banging on the door to make the jump up in time for the World Championships next year.

When Alexandra Coletti crashed near the top, there was a pause as she was rescued from the netting. Two racers later and Chemmy Alcott was on course. Alcott admitted that her run was not as clean as it could have been and certainly had she not had 42 bone breaks and 4 career threatening injuries, she could well have been smoother. It is just a few short weeks since she was back training let alone racing. Alcott said in her own words: “It was messy skiing and I didn’t ski as technically well as I wanted and I wasn’t on line. I normally ski quite controlled but I was loose as a goose down there.”

In the big scheme of things the style did not matter. Ski racing is about fastest from the start to the finish; it is not about a judge sitting on the side of the piste giving their opinion. It was all about the time.

For Alcott the long road had been worth it. If any young athlete was watching who was struggling with coning to terms with injury, this is the inspiration to take. This was a lady who had defied the odds of being hindered by the actions of others that had seen the trust in the Governing Body evaporate. What did it mean to her? “After what I’ve been through, it’s amazing justice. I’m swelling with pride and I’m on a buzz. When I made the commitment to come here it was about personal goals. I never put any statistics on it, if I had then top 20 would have been massively over superseding what I expected. I’ve done this against all odds and I’m very proud. I know it sounds crazy to some people, especially when we have such a strong team here in Sochi, but 19th is a gold for me. Anyone who has followed what I’ve been through will understand that.”

In her time Chemmy has shared Olympic rooms with Shelly Rudman as she won a silver in Sestriere, she has held the team together on the Alpine side and has now produced a performance that ranks up there with her 11th place results from both Sestriere in 2006 and Vancouver in 2010. Two days before there had been some that had been questioning her decision to pull out of the slalom section of the Super Combined. Alcott was told not to do the Slalom by her doctors and although a hugely accomplished slalom skier a few years ago, the jarring that a slalom turn could cause her could be too much. This was, in the words of Konrad Bartelski, a ‘no brainer.’

Alcott had wanted to be less that three seconds out, she was less than two. This is what happens when you work hard.

With the Super G to come, Alcott will now be on a real high. Lets hope she can go better than the 19th! She is certainly “not going there just to make up the numbers.”

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Picture: Chemmy Alcott competing in the Downhill section of the Super Combined – COPYRIGHT ZOOM AGENCE