KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia – Downhill ski races are not only contested over miles, but there is no accounting for an individual’s preferred path. What played out here Wednesday morning in the women’s Olympic downhill, then, was a combination of completely improbable and, somehow, wholly satisfying, because when the marquee performance ended, two Alpine skiers from two countries shared a gold medal for the first time in Olympic history. Switzerland’s Dominique Gisin and Slovenia’s Tina Maze both covered the 1.69-mile course at the Rosa Khutor Alpine Center here in 1 minute, 41.57 seconds – and thus shared the gold, a tenth of a second ahead of Switzerland’s Lara Gut, who was awarded bronze. American Julia Mancuso, a pre-race favorite following a dominating performance in the downhill portion of the super combined on Monday, finished eighth, 0.99 of a second behind Gisin and Maze. Mancuso’s hopes for a fifth Olympic medal – which would have tied Bode Miller for the most by an American Alpine racer – came apart when she improperly took on a jump near the top of the course. “I’m more of an instinct skier, and just thinking too much kind of takes me out of my game, and I forget what to do with my body,” Mancuso said. “It needs to come more natural, and that’s when I ski better.” Mancuso skied 12th, and even when she reached the bottom, she knew her medal hopes were dashed. She was in fourth place at that point, with the best downhillers in the world still to come. She has two events remaining – Saturday’s super-G and the giant slalom next week. “I’m moving on,” Mancuso said. “I don’t really have many emotions. I’m disappointed, but I can’t go back and do it again. I just want to remember it for the super-G. … I really just want to hit the reset button.” By the looks of it afterward, neither Gisin nor Maze wanted to reset anything. There have been four previous ties for medals in Olympics, none for gold and none since Switzerland’s Didier Cuche and Austria’s Hans Knauss in the super-G in 1998. Maze, last year’s World Cup overall champion, has largely struggled this season, but she won the most recent World Cup downhill late last month in Italy. Gisin, 29, has endured a series of knee injuries and didn’t have a podium finish in any discipline before Wednesday. And there, she shared the podium. It hardly mattered. At the flower ceremony, she and Maze held hands as they awaited their names to be called to the crowd. Then they both stepped up to the highest step, sharing the platform – and, amazingly, the gold.
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