KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia — The Olympic women’s downhill course here at Rosa Khutor measures out at 2713 meters, or precisely 8900 feet. That’s just shy of a mile and three quarters. On Wednesday, the best racers would hit speeds of more than 60 miles per hour.
On the one hand, it’s all a math problem. You win by getting down the mountain faster than anyone else. On the other, it’s an exercise in fear versus logic. You strap on boots, fix your feet on sticks and throw yourself down a river of ice, hope your mountain-men technicians have figured out the right wax and try to slice down that ice all in one piece, the orange safety nets flashing by, the rest of you wrapped in nothing but lycra, your head in a bobble of plastic. See how that feels.
The alpine ski show makes for a fantastic traveling camp that simultaneously includes elements of the backwoods and high-tech, a mash-up of the best and not-so of American and European cultures with the ever-present scent of danger, a reminder of the fragility of the human condition rooted in the need to test what the soul is capable of against the power of the mountain. That’s why it always verges on the edge, literally and figuratively: can you believe this? On Wednesday, it tipped over.
In a first in Olympic alpine ski history, the downhill ended in a tie.
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