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Chris Chase

Did an Austrian coach intentionally sabotage Lindsey Vonn?

Chris Chase
Fourth-Place Medal

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If her husband/coach is to be believed, Lindsey Vonn's failure to win a gold medal in the women's super-G Saturday was due to a deliberate effort by an Austrian coach to make the course "Vonn-proof."

The course was designed with long straightaways and sweeping turns, both of which force skiers to throttle down the speed. Since Vonn is the world's best downhill skier (meaning: She's fast), this would theoretically hinder her chances at victory.

Whether it was the course, a poor strategy, or just an off-day, Lindsey ended up winning the bronze at Whistler. She seemed pleased after the run, throwing her hands in the air as if she'd won gold. Her husband/coach was not as happy. He soon levied the accusation of "Vonn-proofing" at Austria's Juergen Kriechbaum, as the Associated Press reported:

"I know for a fact that the Austrian course setter said that he was setting [the super-G course] against Lindsey, which is kind of silly, considering. I know he made a comment to some people that ‘we studied all the tapes, and we found out that the one from Val d'Isere is the one she did worst in,' which happened to be third place."

That Thomas Vonn heard this tale secondhand, used the phrase "I know for a fact," and cited a race (Val d'Isere) in which Austrian skiers performed terribly are immediate red flags. But, for argument's sake, let's say he's right. Let's say that Kriechbaum, who won the usual coaches lottery to set the course, designed the run so that his skiers would have an advantage over Lindsey. What's wrong with that?

Why shouldn't Kriechbaum use it to his skiers' favor? You think if the U.S. coach had set the course he wouldn't have included long downhill portions and narrow turns? It comes with the territory. If Thomas Vonn is going to blame anything, he should blame the ridiculous rule that allows coaches to design the run. It's a rule that begs to be taken advantage of and provides an unfair edge to the lottery's "winning" country.

But the rule does exist, so Kriechbaum was well within his right to use it to his advantage. To borrow a word from Thomas Vonn, it would have been "silly" if he didn't.

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