The clock had not been able to separate them and so neither could the victory ceremony as they joyfully joined hands and clambered on to the podium together. After the first Olympic Alpine skiing race to end in a gold-medal dead heat, the spontaneous gesture by Slovenia's Tina Maze and Swiss Dominique Gisin was a delightful conclusion to one of the Games' most improbable tales.
There had been 134 previous finals over 78 years of Alpine events, but there had never been a finish as dramatic as the one that decided the women's downhill champion here. Make that champions. "Better to be two on top than one to be one-hundredth (of a second) behind. Two happy faces!" as the cheery Maze put it.
With two happy stories to relate. Gisin, at 28, has had to overcome nine knee operations to get here, while 30-year-old Maze is last year's skiing wonder woman who was supposed to have lost her mojo. Now, for the first time, the biggest accolade in ski racing can be shared by two champions.
It was, as Gisin said, "quite crazy" that you could hammer down the demanding Rosa Khutor piste for 1.7 miles and discover, just when you are beginning to dream first of victory and then defeat, that your time of 1min 41.57sec has been exactly matched by one of your good pals. "We're close; even closer now," Gisin said with a laugh.
It took a moment for both their brains to compute what had occurred. Gisin, a licensed Swiss Air Force pilot, had watched 13 skiers – including favourites Julia Mancuso and Maria Hoefl-Riesch – fly down the course but fail to match her. Then she had looked up at the big screen, resigned to seeing Maze speeding to victory with a 0.38sec advantage before the run-in.
"I looked away, then I looked up. And then I was like '0.00'? Zero means we're good!" Gisin said with a laugh. Maze thought so too. "I was just happy to see the No 1 (by her name). The rest was not important. It's even more interesting to tie, something special," the first Slovenian Winter Games champion said.
Special indeed. There have been plenty of shared World Cup victories – indeed, both Gisin and Maze had been involved in previous dead heats – but never in the Olympics, where there has been only a couple of ties for silver, never gold. (© Daily Telegraph, London)
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