WHISTLER (Reuters) - Sweden’s Anja Paerson combined Alpine skiing and ski jumping in Wednesday’s women’s Olympic downhill, soaring off the final jump and flying nearly 60 meters before crashing to the piste.
Paerson, the Olympic slalom champion and one of the world’s most prolific all-round skiers, had the silver medal within her grasp and the finish line in sight when she literally took off before landing on her rear and ending up face down.
She escaped without serious injury from a crash which brought back memories of Austrian Hermann Maier’s spectacular tumble at the 1998 Nagano Games when he cartwheeled through the air before standing up and casually brushing the snow off his racing suit.
The 28-year-old Paerson, who has a record of shining at major events, had no broken bones but could be doubtful for the next women’s event of the Olympics, the super-combined scheduled for Thursday.
“She’s OK,” Sweden women’s coach Ulf Emilsson told reporters. “She is bruised and has a sore left calf but nothing is broken. If you see the crash, it is amazing that she can actually walk.”
Asked whether Paerson would be back at Whistler to race in the super-combined, Sweden team leader Anders Sundqvist told Reuters: “We will take the decision after the warm-up tomorrow morning. Nothing is broken but she still has some problem with her leg and calf.
“It’s 50-50 I guess but we will see,” Sundqvist added. “She will get up early in the morning and do some cycling and stuff. We will see after the warm-up if she is healthy enough.”
American Lindsey Vonn, who won the race, gasped, covered her mouth and looked away when Paerson crashed.
Several other competitors crashed down the tricky, bumpy Franz’s Downhill run but Paerson easily won the prize for the day’s most spectacular spill.
“She combined two sports, Alpine skiing and ski jumping,” said Canada’s Emily Brydon.
“The reason for the carnage is that it’s a long run for the women and you’re exhausted when you reach the bottom, which makes those last jumps really tricky,” she added.
(Additional reporting by Alan Baldwin)
Editing by Ed Osmond