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Chris Chase

Vonn misses gate in slalom; were Olympics a disappointment?

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Lindsey Vonn's Olympics started with a bang and ended with a whimper. The American skiing star missed a gate early in her slalom run today at Whistler and did not finish a race for the third time in her five Olympic events.

Just 16 seconds into her slalom run, Vonn's skis clipped a gate and separated. With her right leg flailing, Vonn was unable to get her legs together before the next gate. She straddled the gate and was immediately disqualified.

It's a disappointing end to an Olympics that began with such promise. Vonn was NBC's hand-picked "it" athlete and graced numerous magazine covers in the lead-up to Vancouver (which some were prematurely dubbing "Vonncouver"). It was for good reason. The 25-year-old was the two-time defending World Cup skiing champion and was favored to win at least two golds in Vancouver.

Things got off to a good start in Vonn's first race, when she won the downhill with ease. One day later she led the super-combined event after one run but fell behind in the slalom portion and crashed near the finish while overskiing in an attempt to hit the top step of the podium. She could have a silver with ease had she skied a tentative race near the bottom, but that's not Vonn's style.

A bronze medal followed in the super-G, but then Vonn crashed in her first giant slalom run on Wednesday, breaking her finger in the process. The missed gate today was Vonn's sixth run of the Olympics. She didn't cross the finish line in three of them.

Though the Vancouver Games may have failed to live up to the lofty expectations some had set, it'd be wrong to classify them as a disappointment for Vonn. She was never going to be Michael Phelps — winning all the races she entered. The speed competitons (downhill, super-combined, super-G) are her forte, while the technical events like slalom and giant slalom tend to play to the strengths of others. Coupled with the capricious nature of the sport, all the talk about Vonn winning five medals was over the top.

Best-case scenarios had her with four podiums at best. Realistic expectations had her grabbing two golds and a silver. What she ended up with — one gold, one bronze — is a career for most skiers and nothing to be disappointed about.

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