With high hopes, Americans struggle in downhill
KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia — Stacey Cook has poured all of her heart into her skiing. So to come up short on the Olympic stage was heart-breaking.
“This is what you live for, the Olympics. It’s definitely a disappointment,” an emotional Cook said in the finish area of the women’s Olympic downhill at the Rosa Khutor Alpine Center.
The 29-year-old Truckee, Calif., native thought she skied well, but looked up at the finish to see she was 1.48 seconds behind the pace set by co-gold medalist Dominique Gisin.
Cook will still compete in Saturday’s super-G, but the downhill was considered her best shot at an Olympic medal.
She had come into the Olympics with improving results, notching two downhill top-five finishes in Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy, during the final World Cup stop.
That came after a breakout year last season, when she achieved her first World Cup podiums.
Cook, now of Mammoth Lakes, Calif., said she thought she’d done everything right in her road to Sochi, but said that the Olympics are unpredictable.
“I wouldn’t take anything back,” She said. “I know I’ve done all the right things over the past decade. I’ve worked so hard for so long and sometimes it’s not enough.”
Tina Maze, of Slovenia, and Gisin, of Switzerland, tied for the win — the first tie for gold in alpine skiing Olympic history. Lara Gut, of Switzerland, won bronze.
American Julia Mancuso came in as a favorite after laying down the best downhill run of the day on Monday as part of the super combined, where she won bronze. But she made an error near the bottom of the course Wednesday, hitting a bump that slowed her to an eighth-place finish.
She said she was overthinking things after hitting the first jump too big.
“I’m more of an instinct skier,” Mancuso said. “Just thinking too much kind of takes me out of my game, and I forget what to do with my body. It needs to come more natural, and that’s when I ski better.”
It was another sunny day at the Rosa Khutor ski resort — barely cold enough for a coat — but racers said the course held up well. American Laurenne Ross, competing in her first Olympics, barely missed a top-10 finish, ending up 11th.
“I definitely was charging and took some risks and made some mistakes and got tossed around a little, but I’m happy with my attitude and how I went about it,” Ross said.
The American women’s speed team came into the season with high expectations after recording multiple podium finishes during last season’s World Cup. But they started off the season poorly and suffered injury setbacks with Lindsey Vonn and Alice McKennis out for the year. In the last month, they had turned things on a bit, but Wednesday’s results were a disappointment.
“I think that over the last few Olympics with Lindsey and Julia, we’ve had the luxury of having that consistency, but it’s not always going to be there,” Cook said. “ … We’ve all just had a hard start to the year. We kept believing, kept believing, kept believing, and it wasn’t quite enough.”