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Vonn adds to U.S. medal haul with Super-G bronze

WHISTLER, British Columbia — U.S. Ski Coach Jim Tracy likes to say "there's a thin line between skiing aggressively and laying it on the line."

For Lindsey Vonn, it's roughly the same difference between a gold medal and bronze.

After deftly maneuvering through the challenging upper portion of the Olympic super-G course, Vonn thought she had the race in hand and skied conservatively the rest of the way.

"I think that was my only mistake," Vonn said.

She finished in first place but could only watch as two skiers used the bottom of the course to bump her to bronze. Andrea Fischbacher of Austria won gold and Tina Maze of Slovakia took silver.

While Vonn entered the Winter Games hyped as a contender for three or more gold medals, she's was happy with her bronze medal.

"It almost looks like a gold medal," the downhill champ said jokingly. "... I'm as proud of this as I am of my gold medal."

Saturday still proved to be historic for Vonn. She became the 10th American to win multiple Olympic ski medals and pushed the U.S. Ski Team's record for medals at an Olympics to seven.

She can also make a strong case that she is the fastest female skier in Olympic history. Vonn is the only woman to finish in the top three in every speed race — downhill, super-G and the downhill portion of the combined — at the same Olympics.

"I don't have any regrets on any of my races here," said Vonn, who fell in the slalom portion of the super combined while she was on pace to win gold. "I definitely gave it everything I had every day."

Athletes only get one inspection of the course for super-G increasing the chances of mistakes, especially for the first skiers out of the gate.

American Julia Mancuso, who won silver in the downhill and super combined earlier in the week, had the daunting task of going first.

She put down a strong run but a poor line through the Frog Bank Turn high on the course ultimately kept her off the podium. She finished ninth.

Mancuso wasn't happy that the race started at 10 a.m., 90 minutes earlier than Friday's men's super-G, because shadows made visibility poor for the earlier skiers.

For a while it looked as if Mancuso's time might hold up for another medal as other skiers also struggled on the upper part of Whistler Mountain's Franz's run. Of the 45 racers, 13 did not finish.

"I was hoping for a slight miracle," Mancuso said.

By the time Vonn, the 17th racer, stepped into the starting gate it seemed clear the race would be won on the upper section.

Vonn was the first skier to tuck over the first knoll and blazed through Frog Bank Turn at a pace that looked like would give her the lead by as much as a second.

"Once I passed the tricky section I think I just let off the gas pedal a little bit," said Vonn, who has already clinched this season World Cup super-G season title. "I just didn't continue with that aggression all the way to the finish and wasn't as clean as I could have been on the bottom part and I think that's where I lost the race."

Vonn said the second half of her run was uncharacteristic.

"I just got a little bit too comfortable with my skiing," Vonn said. "... I wasn't letting it go as much as I know I can and I just got content. That's why I'm not on the top step (of the podium) today."

Even Mancuso recognized the lack of aggression in Vonn's run.

"I really actually didn't think her run was very good," Mancuso said. "I thought Maria (Riesch of Germany) skied conservative and then for her (Vonn) to come down not too far ahead of Maria and lose time on the bottom, you never know, but I felt like there was a better run to be had.

"Then Fischbacher came down and showed everyone."

The super-G course was set by the Austrian coaches. Teams draw for the right to set the courses before the games. Fischbacher said her coaches set a course perfect for her, although Tracy and other skiers said it was fair.

"I thought if I make a perfect run, I can do it," Fischbacher said. "Now it is a dream coming true."

Leanne Smith finished 18th and Chelsea Marshall fell to round out the U.S. participation in the race.

Vonn said her shin injury still hurts, but she said it did not impact her skiing even though she chose to rest her shin rather than ski the course Friday afternoon. "It' just pain," she said.

The women don't race again until the giant slalom on Feb. 24. Vonn plans to ski just one of the three off days.With only two technical races remaining, Vonn won't be surprised if she doesn't win another medal.

"To be honest I'm not expecting a lot," said Vonn, who ranks 13th in the slalom and 28th in the giant slalom this season on the World Cup circuit.

Mancuso, on the other hand, is the reigning Olympic champ in the giant slalom.

"I'm excited about GS," Mancuso said. "... It's really nice snow (for giant slalom), I love it."

Hill reports for The News Tribune (Tacoma, Wash.)

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