Pärson’s spectacular crash on the final jump was the most high profile of a series of spectacular wipe outs which left a handful of racers needing medical treatment, marring the Olympic women’s downhill won by the favourite Lindsey Vonn.
Vonn won the event with fellow American Julia Mancuso taking silver and Austria’s Elisabeth Goergl bronze, but the 2,939-metre-long Franz’s Downhill course proved too testing for a clutch of unfortunate racers.
Anja Pärson looked destined for the silver medal when she misjudged the final “Hot Air” jump – where competitors travel at more than 120 kph and fly for 60 metres coming into the finishing area.
The Swede took too much air and buckled on landing. She slid across the finish line and had to receive medical attention before leaving with a doctor.
Pärson was limping after the race and was taken back to the Swedish team’s compound for treatment. Her coach and father Anders Pärsson confirmed that she has pain in her calf and that it is uncertain if she will be able to continue at the Olympics.
Anja Pärson described the race as “the worst I have been involved in” and was relieved that she had come through unscathed.
The International Ski Federation (FIS) said immediate action would be taken
to shave the final jump for the downhill run of Thursday’s super-combined event given the icy nature of the track which has seen speeds increase dramatically.
“We don’t think it was dangerous,” Atle Skaardal, the FIS’ director of women’s races, said of “Hot Air”.
“It’s a long jump for sure, but the speed was higher today than in training due to all that rain that froze overnight – it was very icy.”
“It is always too bad when someone’s crashing but I can’t take responsibility for every crash on the hill.”
That said, Skaardal added that the downhill in Thursday’s super-combined would feature a re-worked run-in to the finish area.
“We will try to ease things down a bit and change the final jump one more time and move the start down to avoid such a long running time. We will shave the final jump a little bit more.”
Other racers who crashed out included Switzerland’s Dominique Gisin, who also landed awkardly on the final jump and slid off piste.
“I’m all right,” a tearful Gisin said. “My head hurts a bit and I’m a bit dizzy. There are a lot of jumps coming out of turns, which are not easy. There are a lot of bumps. I tried my best.
“I had a really long final jump and I started to turn in the air and I just tried to fall without hurting myself.
“Some days are just not your day. But you hope that day is not an Olympic
Late starter and Olympic debutant Edith Miklos of Romania had to be airlifted off the piste after losing an edge, somersaulting in mid-air and hurtling through the safety netting.
American Stacey Cook, who suffered a nasty fall in the aborted first training session on the hill last week and also had to be airlifted off the course, was just happy to be back in action.
“It was two days ago when we had our first training run, it was the toughest day I have had in my life mentally,” Cook said.
“I don’t remember the crash or the helicopter ride, but it’s about going back up there and going at it again. All the girls were nervous.”
“It’s about being brave and having a lot of character and getting back out there. I trust in my skiing and send it down the hill.”
Briton Chemmy Alcott, who finished in 13th position a massive 3.12sec off Vonn’s startling pace, said most racers on the circuit want to be tested when they do downhill.
“It’s an awesome course,” she said. “It’s a perfect Olympic women’s course. If you ask any of the girls, they want it to be challenging.”
French racer Marion Rolland took an almost-comical tumble just three seconds into her run, not having even graced the icy rollercoaster of a piste before her.