JEONGSEON, SOUTH KOREA – Everything was going according to how Lindsey Vonn envisioned her race.
Her start was fast. She was skiing aggressively. She felt strong.
“I was like, ‘Yes, I got this,’ ” she thought to herself. “I knew I had to focus all the way to the finish because of that turn.”
She won’t soon forget that turn. A mistake on the second-to-last turn in the women’s super-G ruined Vonn’s first Olympic race in eight years Saturday afternoon.
Vonn misjudged her speed, went about 15 feet outside the course marker and nearly crashed before regaining control. That mistake cost her valuable time and dropped her to a sixth-place finish at the Jeongseon Alpine Center.
Vonn, who won bronze in this event at the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver, finished in 1 minute, 21.49 seconds. Ester Ledecka of the Czech Republic, who also competes in Olympic snowboarding, stunned the field by winning gold in 1:21.11, finishing 0.01 ahead of Austria’s Anna Veith.
“I thought it would either be really great or really bad,” Vonn said of her race. “And it didn’t quite turn out the way I had hoped. I just made one mistake and that cost me a medal.”
A devastating knee injury forced Vonn to miss the 2014 Games in Sochi so this was her first Olympic race since Vancouver. At 33, she is attempting to become the oldest woman to win an Olympic Alpine medal. She has two races left here: downhill and the combined.
Vonn was the first racer on the course Saturday. She tied for the fastest start time of the field but her mistake at the bottom kept her off the podium. At the finish line, she put her hands to her head and then turned to the crowd and appeared to mouth, “I tried.”
She was out of medal contention after seven racers.
“It was a really quick [turn] and I had good speed coming in,” she said. “I think I just may have released my ski a little bit too early.”
The race was delayed one hour because of high winds at the top of the gondola, continuing a pattern of weather disruptions at these Games.
Gusty winds have caused three postponements of alpine races in the first week of the Games, creating havoc on the schedule as competitions were moved to later dates. Safety is the top priority, but officials also want to create a fair race. They want to avoid skiers potentially gaining an advantage by having a strong wind at their back.
The compressed schedule ended American phenom Mikaela Shiffrin’s bid to compete in five events.
With her slalom and giant slalom events pushed back several days, Shiffrin decided not to race in the super-G because she needed rest.
Ledecka’s unlikely win snapped Austria’s streak of three consecutive gold medals in this event.
Her run shocked everyone, including her. She turned to someone and said, “How did that happen?”
Skiing in the 26th position — a spot from which winners rarely emerge — Ledecka, 22, completed the run of her young life, winning by a hundredth of a second over Veith at point when most thought the race was over. And it pushed Vonn to sixth.
Vonn said she was not disappointed in her finish. She still has her best event, downhill, left in her final Olympics.
“I don’t see this as a negative,” she said. “Obviously I didn’t get a medal but man, I’ve been waiting eight years for this. I wouldn’t change anything. I attacked and that’s what happens.
“I would be more disappointed in myself if I came down slow and not pushed myself. But I didn’t. I was prepared and aggressive and felt awesome. Everything lined up except for one turn.”