Olympic gold-medal tie is alpine first
KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia -- For the first time in Olympic history, an Alpine skiing race ended in a tie for the gold medal as Tina Maze of Slovenia and Dominique Gisin of Switzerland both won the women's downhill.
The pair sped down the Rosa Khutor course in 1 minute, 41.57 seconds. A few moments later, the good friends held hands as they stepped up to the top of the podium.
"I'm sure glad I'm going to share this gold with Tina," said Gisin, who will get a medal all to herself. "She's such a great woman and one of the greatest athletes of our sport."
Lara Gut of Switzerland earned bronze, 0.10 of a second behind the winners. American Julia Mancuso, one of the prerace favorites, trailed by 0.99 in eighth place after losing more than a half-second in the lower sections.
"I am disappointed with my skiing," Mancuso said. "I made some big mistakes. I would like to have another chance, but it's over. I have to move on to my next event."
Wednesday's marquee event was the eighth time that Olympic gold has been awarded to two competitors in the Winter Games, and the first time in Alpine skiing.
"Maybe just one finger or one hand can change the color of a medal," said Maze, adding there was no need to slice up their finishing times into thousandths of seconds rather than hundredths.
"It's even more interesting because it's not a usual thing," Maze said. "It's something special."
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.
Maze was even involved in a three-way tie in October 2002. The World Cup season-opening giant slalom in Soelden, Austria, saw Maze, Andrine Flemmen of Norway and Nicole Hosp of Austria all occupy the podium's top step. Hosp placed ninth Wednesday.
Wednesday's Olympic race seemed in Maze's hands when she led Gisin at each time split and speed check. But she then appeared to make a small mistake before the final slope, which was slowed by softening snow.
Wearing bib No. 21, Maze had started 30 minutes after No. 8 Gisin as temperatures approached 50 degrees.
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 Slovenian, who has struggled to match her exceptional 2013 campaign.
Although Maze won two silvers at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, Gisin earned her first major medal. When Maze completed her run, Gisin came out of the leader's box and into the finish area to give her a hug.
"It's really crazy," Mancuso said of the tie. "I'm really happy for both those girls. It's an amazing show.
"It's actually crazy that it comes down to one-hundredths [of a second] and there is not one-thousandths as a tiebreaker."
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. Gisin sustained a concussion.
This time, the Swiss racer was crying while speaking with her grandparents on her mobile phone.
"It was very emotional," Gisin said. "They did so much for me; my whole family did. This is just very nice to share it with them."
At the 1992 Albertville Olympics, Diann Roffe of the United States and Anita Wachter of Austria both took silver behind Pernilla Wiberg of Sweden. At the 1964 Innsbruck Olympics, Christine Goitschel of France and Jean Saubert of the United States were second to gold medalist Marielle Goitschel of France.
On Wednesday, prerace favorites Mancuso and Maria Hoefl-Riesch of Germany 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.
"I really thought Tina could do it," Mancuso said. "She almost did the same thing that I did on the bottom, but she was going a little faster, so I think she pulled it off."
Mancuso had been fastest in the downhill portion of the super-combined on Monday, in which she finished third and Hoefl-Riesch won.
"It's tough and really difficult to stay focused on the whole run, but that's what separates the champions from the rest of us on race day," Mancuso said of the course.
That day, Gut had been second-fastest in downhill before letting a medal slip by skiing out in slalom.
On Wednesday, Gut was in tears again, seemingly unable to understand how her speed -- clocking 64.9 mph (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.
"It's cool to win a bronze, but when you know you can do more, at the beginning I think it's normal to be a bit 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.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.