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Lindsey Vonn says she's sorry for hurting Julia Mancuso's medal chances

February 24, 2010 | 12:22 pm

Julia The sometimes contentious rivalry between U.S. skiers Lindsey Vonn and Julia Mancuso took a bizarre twist Wednesday after Vonn crashed in the morning run of giant slalom and forced Mancuso to restart her run.

You almost can't make this up. Vonn drew the No. 17 bib for the giant slalom with Mancuso skiing right behind her. Because of poor weather conditions, the racers were sent off in one-minute intervals to speed up the event.

Vonn was in the lead and well into her run when Mancuso left the start gate. After Vonn crashed into the netting near the bottom of the course, Mancuso was flagged by a course-side jury member and had to return to the start gate.

Mancuso, the defending Olympic champion in the giant slalom, ended up restarting at No. 31 and finished a disappointing 1.30 seconds out of the lead, in 18th place. Mancuso left the mixed area in tears, without comment, after her run. She will race again in the afternoon.

"I feel terrible," Vonn said. "I hope she understands. I didn't want that to happen for the both of us."

Vonn has won gold and bronze at the Vancouver games and Mancuso has two silver medals.

Mancuso, after the race, posted to her Twitter account: "That yellow flag in GS was such...I just want to scream. I'm really miffed. Anyway, gotta take that energy and focus it on second run."

Vonn2 Vonn, who has never finished in the top three of a World Cup giant slalom, caught an edge with her right ski, forcing her left knee to hit her chin. She crashed back-first into safety netting and later said she injured her right pinkie.

Vonn was leading the race by .35 after the third interval when she crashed.

"I know she was disappointed," Vonn said of Mancuso. "I know she's mad and probably frustrated. She's probably mad at me, but I can't help that I fell. I was having a great run. I wish I could have come down and not have her be flagged. That's absolutely not what I wanted, but it happened and it happens in ski racing."

Vonn also said she has been hurt by comments directed at her by Mancuso.

Vonn, Mancuso, Bode Miller and Andrew Weibrecht made the cover of Sports Illustrated this week for combining to win a U.S.-record eight medals. But there has been an undercurrent of tension.

Mancuso said last week that she wished the rest of the U.S. ski team got more attention. She then told SI.com, "You come to meetings after races and it's like it's a bad day if Lindsey didn't do well."

Vonn's response: "I try to support Julia as much as I support all the other teammates. I've been racing with Julia since I was a little kid and yes, we're competitors, but I always support her. It definitely has hurt me that she has said some negative things about me. All I can do is to continue to support her the way I always have been, and hope that she reciprocates that. I'm always proud that an American is doing well and I was proud of her for being on the podium in downhill and super combined. It just bums me out."

Stay tuned for Mancuso's post-race comments. 

-- Chris Dufresne in Whistler, Canada

Top photo: Julia Mancuso reacts following her run in the giant slalom on Wednesday. Credit: Sergey Ponomarev. Bottom photo: Lindsey Vonn finishes after crashing during the giant slalom. Credit: Stephan Jansen / EPA