WHISTLER, British Columbia — The women's giant slalom was finally put to bed Thursday as Julia Mancuso tried to put a few rumors, and her emotional Olympic experience, to rest.
Mancuso had no real shot at Whistler to defend her gold medal. Hope ended Wednesday when she finished 18th in her first run. Mancuso was flagged off course during her run and forced to restart after teammate Lindsey Vonn crashed in front of her.
Poor weather postponed the second run to Thursday morning, which gave Mancuso time to transition from fuming to philosophical.
"It's just funny how the universe works," Mancuso said.
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She posted the third-fastest second run Thursday but ended up in eighth. German Viktoria Rebensburg, only 20, won the GS with a two-run time of two minutes 27.11. Tina Maze of Slovenia won her second silver of the Vancouver Games and Austria's Elisabeth Goergl claimed her second bronze.
Mancuso, meanwhile, seemed ready to move on.
"I can't say honestly that it was fair," she said, "but there's nothing I can do about it."
Things changed overnight.
Wednesday, while she was embroiled in a mini-drama with Vonn, extreme skier CR Johnson died after a fall back home in Squaw Valley, Calif. Mancuso and Johnson had been friends for years.
Wednesday, Mancuso cried for herself after her GS chances were diminished by freak circumstances involving her longtime rival.
Thursday, Mancuso cried for her friend, twice having to back away from a post-race interview.
"Skiing is not a safe sport all the time," Mancuso said. "Especially when you want to push it."
Mancuso dedicated her second run to Johnson and pushed as hard as she could. She had the lead when she crossed the line, but the 1.30-second deficit she carried over from Wednesday would not carry the day.
"Coming here today, for me, after everything yesterday, was like, 'Go out there and love skiing.'"
Mancuso's Olympics are over (she is not entered in Friday's slalom). She returns to Olympic Valley with two unexpected silver medals.
Since Mancuso stole the stage by winning GS gold in Turin, Vonn has rocketed to become the greatest U.S. female skier in history. It couldn't have been easy for Mancuso, who has battled injuries and had not finished on a podium in two years before doing it twice in Whistler.
That only ramped up the dormant Vonn-Mancuso rivalry and led to headlines suggesting Mancuso was jealous of the attention Vonn was getting.
"That is just ridiculous," Mancuso said.
Mancuso said she respects Vonn but adds: "We're both very different. ... I'm sure that's what fuels the fire."
Things only got more tense when Vonn's crash forced Mancuso to restart her first GS run.
"I know she felt really sorry," Mancuso said. "It's really not her fault, of course."
Mancuso may have lost her chance to defend her gold, but she won't defend going home with two silvers.
"Leaving here with any sort of medal clunking around my neck is a dream come true," she said.