By Mark Trevelyan
PYEONGCHANG, South Korea (Reuters) – Ragnhild Mowinckel had a long time to wait before starting 19th in Wednesday’s women’s Olympic downhill race, but she was not letting a moment go to waste.
As Italy’s Sofia Goggia and American Lindsey Vonn set the early pace, and four other skiers crashed out, the Norwegian was learning from her rivals’ runs and plotting her line of attack down the 2,775 meter Jeongseon course.
She also had the benefit of intelligence passed on by her team mates Aksel Lund Svindal and Kjetil Jansrud, who won the gold and silver medals on the near-identical men’s downhill course last week.
The crowd’s excitement mounted as the intermediate time checks showed ‘RagMow’ 0.07 seconds faster than leader Goggia at the half-way point, eventually finishing 0.09 behind the Italian and 0.38 ahead of Vonn.
It was the second time in the women’s speed events in Pyeongchang that an athlete had sprung a major surprise from low down in the starting order – albeit not quite as sensational as Czech Ester Ledecka’s victory with bib 26 in the super-G.
“I think the advantage you have, for sure, starting later is you get to see the other racers go before you,” the 25-year old said, while adding the course was slicker and icier than during the three training runs.
“Seeing them go down today, I definitely had a feeling I can maybe do the same or that I can do better.”
Another bonus, she said, is having the world’s best downhill racers in the shape of Svindal and Jansrud on hand to give you advice.
“Those guys are amazing… For sure they gave me some good tips, and that worked out today.”
Mowinckel now has a second silver to go with the one she won in the giant slalom – part of a record haul for Norway of six medals so far in Alpine skiing at these Games.
“Coming into these Olympics, my best downhill result was a sixth place. Having this podium on an Olympic day is incredible,” she said.
“When you go for the Games, you take risks you maybe wouldn’t do before, you take chances – and today I’m lucky to be on the right side of that.”
(Editing by Greg Stutchbury)