WHISTLER, British Columbia - These were supposed to be Lindsey Vonn’s Olympics, and she wanted to finish them skiing, not watching.
So there she was in the starting gate for yesterday’s slalom - her broken right pinkie protected by a plastic brace and encased in a soft crimson mitten instead of a sturdy white glove; her back and famously bruised shin aching; her mind well aware she had little chance in an event that’s given her fits all season.
As it turned out, Vonn’s right ski slid too wide as she came out of a left-hand turn early in the first of two slalom runs contested through a veil of dense fog and penny-sized snowflakes. She straddled a gate instead of going around it.
Her final event at the Vancouver Games lasted less than 20 seconds, and after a shrug and a stare at the spot where things went wrong, Vonn slowly made her way to the bottom of the hill, then began the process of publicly assessing the ups and downs of her high-profile two weeks at Whistler.
“At this point, I’m kind of happy that the Olympics are over,’’ she said. “I just feel mentally and physically beat down.’’
The good: a gold in her signature event, the downhill, and a bronze in the super-G.
The bad: failing to complete her other three races, plus accumulating all manner of injuries that Vonn said left her “just trying to put the duct tape around all my body parts and stay together.’’
“Five gold medals was never my goal. Of course, I wanted to try. And looking back, four medals were very realistic. But nothing goes the way you want it to. Nothing’s ever perfect.’’
While Vonn didn’t qualify for the second slalom run, she stuck around and was ready with a congratulatory hug for champion Maria Riesch of Germany, Vonn’s top rival and best friend on the World Cup circuit.
“I’m so proud of you,’’ Vonn told Riesch.
By winning the slalom with a two-leg time of 1 minute 42.89 seconds, it’s Riesch - not Vonn - who will depart Whistler with two gold medals. Riesch also won the super combined after Vonn blew a lead by hooking a gate in the slalom portion of that event.
Marlies Schild of Austria was 0.43 second back to take silver. Sarka Zahrobska of the Czech Republic trailed by 1.01 to finish third.