Alpine Skiing

Kerrin Lee-Gartner - Friday Feb. 14, 2014 22:36

Two gold medals, won two ways

Tina Maze and Dominique Gisin share gold, but not approach

Dominque Gisin and Tina Maze
Winners Dominique Gisin of Switzerland (L) and Tina Maze of Slovenia celebrate after the women's alpine skiing downhill event during a flower ceremony at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics. (Reuters)

The Olympics have always been something special to me: the intrigue of the rings, the flame and of course the athletes, medals and O Canada!

This is my eighth Winter Olympic experience, three times as an athlete and my fifth working for television as an alpine analyst and commentator. It surprises me every four years, but the spirit and the feel of the Olympics just never gets old. It always feels like it did when I was a racer.

Working with the great Scott Oake is an experience in itself, but calling the women’s Olympic downhill with him two days ago was one of my favorite days in the booth.

I am definitely emotionally attached to the Olympic downhill, and the race unfolded so beautifully, with a tie for the gold medal for the first time in Olympic alpine history. I could feel so much of what they were going through … it made 22 years ago seem like yesterday.

There is never one recipe for success, or one route to the top. The careers of the two history-making downhill gold medallists, Tina Maze of Slovenia and Dominique Gisin of Switzerland, are perfect examples of the strength of character needed to win.

The great Maze is always a favorite to win. She expects it, every race, every event, all of the time. She has been the best in class since she was a very little girl; she broke record after record and is a mega-star at home in Slovenia.

Maze is technically strong, but her mental strength is what sets her apart from others. She manages to harness pressure and use it to her advantage. It makes her better, brings focus to her actions and boosts her confidence.

Maze raced a great race and her reaction to crossing the line in a tie was the most emotion she has shared with the media all year. The great Tina Maze seemed very relieved to win the Olympic downhill.

Dominique Gisin, on the other hand, was not a favorite, and hadn’t stepped on the podium this year. She had to earn her spot within the powerful Swiss team by qualifying in the training runs.

Gisin raced with bib #8, and that allowed the world to witness her in the leader’s box. She shared her emotions freely, and her exuberance and excitement with each passing racer was palpable. Gisin said she had to work so hard; every step was difficult and nothing came easily for her.

She was never the best on the team, always had someone she was trying to catch. She had no pressure to win, just desire. No expectation, just will … and a willingness to believe.

The rings, the flame, the athletes, the medals … yes, the Olympics still intrigue me!

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