ROSA KHUTOR, Russia, Feb 12 (Reuters) - Following a topsy-turvy career, Dominique Gisin doesn’t mind sharing her women’s downhill Olympic gold with Slovenia’s Tina Maze.
After all, the Swiss has been here before, tying with Swedish great Anja Paerson when she claimed her first World Cup victory in 2009.
Few rated the chances of the 28-year old Gisin, a pilot in the Swiss Air Force. Twelfth in the overall World Cup rankings, she had won only two downhills. Four years ago in Vancouver, she crashed and suffered concussion.
“That’s the story of my career, up, down, forwards, backwards,” Gisin told reporters after the first shared gold in Olympic history.
“I have had a lot of injuries in my life, I had nine knee surgeries. I was close to the podium a lot. I never medalled on a big event, so what comes around, goes around,” she said.
Gisin started eighth, then had to watch nervously while all the favourites came down without beating her time. Maze started 21st, about half an hour later, and Gisin could not bear to watch her cross the line.
“I looked away and I looked up again and then I thought: ‘Zero. That means we’re good’.”
Alpine skiers have shared medals before at the Olympics, but never the gold. Gisin becomes the first Swiss downhill winner since Michela Figini in Sarajevo 30 years ago.
“I was so nervous, just waiting. There was nothing I could do but in the end I was ahead - well, together with Tina, but that’s fine. I am for sure happy where I am.”
Gisin, whose sister Michelle is also competing at the Olympic, started skiing aged 18 months. In her job as a pilot, she does not fly in winter “because it is too stressful”.
Gisin made a teary phone call to her grandparents, with whom she skied a lot as a child.
“It was very emotional, they did so much for me. My whole family did. They always believed this would come, they always said you have to believe,” she said.
Gisin had had three third-place finishes since 2010/11 but was reluctant to race at full stretch, worried she would get injured again. Coming through a tough qualifying process helped push her to gold, she said.
”I had trouble giving everything in races since the last injury, adding half a metre here or there, leaving a little more space rather than too little.
“That’s not how you win races. I didn’t feel like an athlete anymore,” she said of the last two years.
“Having to qualify, I had to fight in a strong team like this. That’s what I needed, and now I feel like an athlete again and that’s the biggest victory for me today.” (Reporting by Annika Breidthardt; Editing by Robert Woodward)