Mistake costs Lindsey Vonn medal in Pyeongchang debut
JEONGSEON, South Korea — After eight long years, Lindsey Vonn was about six seconds from an Olympic medal — perhaps gold.
One bad turn, and the dream was suddenly dashed.
Vonn veered off the course about four gates of the super-G finish, making a recovery but giving up significant time. She finished with a time of 1 minute, 21.49 seconds Saturday at Jeongseon Alpine Centre, in sixth place.
“But I’m so proud of my performance,” she said after the race. “I gave it everything I have. I left it all on the hill, which I knew I would. Just made one mistake and that cost me a medal.”
Ester Ledecka, the two-sport athlete from the Czech Republic who also competes in parallel giant slalom snowboarding, won the race with a time of 1 minute, 21.11 seconds. She edged silver medalist Anna Veith by one-hundredth of a second. Tina Weirather of Liechtenstein won bronze.
Ledecka looked at the scoreboard in disbelief after coming in first, skiing as the 26th starter.
“This must be some mistake,” she said she was thinking. “That they’re going to switch the time for some others.”
Ledecka’s snowboarding coach is former parallel giant slalom athlete Justin Reiter of Steamboat Springs, a 2014 Olympian.
“I knew she was capable,” Reiter said. “And every time she pulls out of the start gate she pulls out with a fire behind her and inside of her. I didn’t know that this would be her first skiing podium. I knew it’s possible but I didn’t expect it.”
Vonn said she skied aggressively and felt great for most of the run.
“Everything lined up except for one turn,” she said. “And that’s all it takes, and that’s why it’s so difficult to win at the Olympics, because literally anything can happen. And that’s all you can do is prepare your best to give your best.
“And at the end of the day I’m going to go home and be happy with myself because there’s nothing more I could’ve done more than.”
The 33-year-old Vail resident dedicated the race to her late grandfather. Don Kildow passed away in November at age 88. He taught Vonn’s father, Alan Kildow, how to ski, igniting a passion that was passed down to Vonn.
Vonn last competed in the Olympics eight years ago, when she won a gold in the downhill and bronze in super-G at the Vancouver Games.
She missed Sochi four years ago with a right knee injury.
“Man, I’ve been waiting eight years for this. I’m super happy, and I left it all on the hill,” she said.
Alice McKennis, of New Castle, finished 16th with a time of 1 minute, 22.20 seconds.
“I’m really happy with my run,” she said. “There was definitely some mistakes and some places that I sort of blew it and lost some speed, but my attitude was full send, and I was pushing as hard as I could. I really enjoyed it out there. So I’m proud to represent the U.S. and I’m so excited and thrilled to be here today.”
She said she pinched a gate near the top going into the flat section, which cost her significant time moving forward.
Her dad, her sister, her niece and her boyfriend were in the crowd cheering her on with “Go Aligator” hats from Ski Town All Stars.
“Obviously you want a medal, but it’s still such a great experience to be a part of and to participate in the Olympics,” she said.
“This is a celebration of all our veterans have done for us,” said Pat Hammon with the local VFW Post, who served as a nurse in Vietnam. “It’s not a time for sadness.”