Tags: womens | downhill | tie | gold | olympics

Women's Downhill Tie for Gold a First in Olympic Skiing

Image: Women's Downhill Tie for Gold a First in Olympic Skiing Dominique Gisin, left, and Tina Maze

Wednesday, 12 Feb 2014 03:32 PM

By Clyde Hughes

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It was a gold medal tie in the women's downhill event in Sochi on Wednesday.

In a race that times its competitors down to the hundredth of a second, ties seem nearly impossible, yet Slovenia's Tina Maze and Switzerland's Dominique Gisin pulled off the rare event.

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Both women covered the 1 1/2-mile course in 1 minute, 41.57 seconds, sharing the top of the podium and each receiving a gold medal, The Associated Press reported.

Gisin and Maze, separated by a half hour on the hill, benefited even before the start of the event with defending Olympic champion, American Lindsey Vonn, dropping out a month earlier because of a knee injury.

Maze appeared faster than Gisin through most of the race, but slowed down to recover from a mistake before her final leap toward the finish line.

"Maybe just one finger, maybe just a hand — it can change a color of a medal," Maze told The Associated Press.

A gold medal tie has never happened in Olympic Alpine downhill skiing before now.

The Winter Olympics started timing skiers within a hundredth of a second at the 1964 games in Innsbruck, Austria. The electronic timer records the finishing time when the tip of the ski crosses the finish line, unlike track and field when the athletes' torso crosses the line.

Three other gold medal ties in the Winter Games have all come in speed skating, where the conditions are virtually identical for all racers. The Washington Post said in an event like downhill, varied terrain and shifting of snow from previous races would have an effect on times over 2,700 meters, making Wednesday's tie an even more remote possibility.

The New York Times reported that there was a more precise time for the racers, recorded to within 10,000th of a second, but racing rules prevented officials from using that time.

The International Ski Federation (FIS), the international governing body of the sport, said timing to the hundredths of a second is the worldwide standard, wrote the New York Times.

"When you start getting into such small numbers you cannot guarantee the integrity of that number. It's an outdoor sport in a winter climate, a piece of flesh could be the difference," Jenny Wiedeke, the federation's communications manager, told the Times.

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