WHISTLER, British Columbia --- In the very instant that Lindsey Vonn spun out of control during Wednesday's Olympic giant slalom, breaking a finger and ending her latest medal bid, Julia Mancuso -- Vonn's teammate and lifelong rival, not to mention the defending champion -- sped toward that same spot.
As Vonn lay in the snow off to the side of a course, tangled up in blue netting "like a pretzel," an official waved a giant yellow flag through the driving flakes and dense fog to warn Mancuso that she needed to stop. Otherwise, Mancuso would risk slamming into Vonn or a course worker helping her.
"I was kind of thinking, like, 'Is this really happening?' It was hard to kind of wrap my head around it," Mancuso said, "just because it's something that I would not expect, ever."
And so it was that a rare confluence of events -- awful weather, shortened intervals between racers, Vonn's crash immediately before Mancuso's start-and-stop -- conspired to bring these two together, presumably dashing the hopes each harbored for a third medal and shining light on a simmering rift between a couple of 25-year-old Americans.
The fog was so thick skiers couldn't see oncoming gates with enough space to maneuver.
It never lifted, postponing the second run until today.
Had the weather been clear, there would have been more lag time than the 60 seconds between Vonn and Mancuso.
As it was, with Vonn starting 17th, and Mancuso 18th -- slots based on their giant slalom results during the World Cup season -- Mancuso began her run almost to the second as Vonn was crashing.
"The fact that I wasn't flagged earlier or they weren't able to get her out of the way in time -- it's just a ridiculous situation," said Mancuso.
After pausing to check on Vonn, Mancuso made her way slowly down to the finish area, then got a lift on a snowmobile back to the top for a do-over. She wound up 18th-fastest in the run, 1.30 seconds behind leader Elisabeth Goergl of Austria.
"I know she was disappointed, and I know that she was mad, and probably frustrated, and probably mad at me," Vonn said once she was safely at the bottom of the hill, holding a plastic bag of ice on her throbbing right pinkie. "But I can't help that I fell. I wanted to finish."
Vonn broke the bone at the base of her pinkie, and the U.S. Olympic Committee said her status for Friday's slalom, hasn't been decided.