The dead heat for gold marks a first in Olympic alpine history
KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia — In the women's Olympic downhill, what was the difference between finishing in a tie and finishing 0.01 seconds back after a 12/3-mile-long course on which the skiers reached speeds of almost 65 miles an hour?
Ten and a half inches.
"It could be just a finger," said Slovenian speedster Tina Maze. "Or a hand."
Or it could be nothing at all, which is what the clock said it was between the run of Maze and an earlier run by Dominique Gisin of Switzerland.
And that was history — the first time an Olympic alpine ski race had ended in a dead heat for the gold medal — or gold medals, in this case.
When Maze, who started 21st, attacked the early part of the course with abandon, it looked like she might overtake Gisin, who started eighth, as the leader. But when she crossed the finish line, there were two 1s on the board, with identical times of 1 minute, 41.57 seconds.
"She was ahead of me (on the early splits)," Gisin said. "I knew it was going to be close. When I saw it was a tie, I thought, 'That's OK with me.' "
And that's the way it ended, gold medals for Maze and Gisin, with Switzerland's Lara Gut taking the bronze medal, 0.10 seconds back.
This was the fifth medal tie overall in Olympic alpine skiing. There have been three ties for second, including the USA's Diann Roffe Steinrotter tying Anita Wachter of Austria for the silver medal in the giant slalom in 1992. The others were the 1998 men's super-G (Didier Cuche and Hans Knauss) and the 1964 women's giant slalom (the USA's Jean Saubert and France's Christine Goitschel). And, in the 1948 men's downhill, two Swiss skiers tied for the bronze medal.
Ski races are timed to hundredths of a second, and the previous closest race for gold in Olympic history had been Picabo Street's winning run in the 1998 super-G — 0.01 seconds faster than Austrian Michaela Dorfmeister.
Street, now an analyst for Fox Sports, watched Wednesday's race at the bottom of the hill and afterward joked about finding a timing official to find who won to the thousandth of a second.
"I am so curious to know," she said. "I want to get that person and beat it out of them. 'Tell me, I know she did it!' I had my money on Maze coming up here."
Asked if they would like to see the timing extended to thousandths of a second, both winners said hundredths was just fine with them.
"Keeping it to hundredths is OK,' Gisin said. "A hundredth is always luck. But luck comes back on your side. Maybe once it is on your side and maybe another time on the other side, and one time you're in the middle, like today. I'm happy with that."