LEANNE SMITH talks to reporters after the downhill portion of the Olympic super combined on Monday, Feb. 10, at the Rosa Khutor Alpine Center outside Sochi, Russia.
Joshua Spaulding. (click for larger version)
February 12, 2014SOCHI, Russia — Leanne Smith's second Olympic experience got going on Monday morning in the Rosa Khutor Alpine Village in the mountains outside of Sochi, Russia.
Smith started 27th out of the gate in the downhill run of the super combined and finished in 1:45.06, which placed her 20th overall after the first discipline. The event continued in the afternoon with a slalom run. Smith skied out and didn't complete the slalom.
Smith's teammate, Julia Mancuso won the downhill portion in 1:42.68 and finished third overall. Maria Hoefl-Riesch of Germany won the race after finishing fifth in the morning, completing both runs in 2:34.62 for the gold medal and Nicole Hosp of Austria took silver in 2:35.02.
After the race, Smith admitted that the downhill events have been a struggle for her recently, but she also reiterated that she has complete faith in her abilities to bounce back stronger than ever.
"It's been a struggle for me recently in the downhill," Smith said. "I'm not feeling like I would like to.
"But every day I go out and give it my best effort to try and turn it around," she continued. "There is no reason to lose sleep over it."
And her ability to fight through the struggles?
"I'll really be back with a vengeance at some point in the downhill, that's for sure," Smith said.
She did note that the Rosa Khutor downhill course has a pretty steep pitch and is a little bumpy in places, but noted that it has held up well despite the relatively warm temperatures through the first few days of the Olympic Games.
She also pointed out that the course hasn't been her friend in the training runs.
"It's carved me pretty well the past few days," she said. "The pitch is pretty steep and it's a little bumpy in places."
But the Kennett graduate knew what one of the solutions to her troubles might be, in addition to just going out and racing and not letting a tough finish bother her.
"It's going to take a little rest, no more overthinking," she said. "I've proven that I can be up there with anyone. I feel like I can show on any given day in super G."
She also noted that the success that her teammates might find can also be a motivator.
"We've all had our struggles this year," Smith said. "But what it boils down to is every person on our team is insane at skiing."
Prior to hitting the slopes for the slalom, she admitted that it wasn't her favorite discipline, but like she always does, she was going out to give it her all in typical Leanne Smith-style.
"It's going to be difficult," she said, looking up at the slalom course in front of her. "But I'm just going to try to send it and have fun."
Smith also had high praise for the work done at Rosa Khutor since the last time the ski team visited two years ago. The US Ski Team competed in a World Cup downhill and super combined event as a test for the Olympics.
"I never knew what to expect coming here and what it was going to be," she said. "To see what they've pulled off in the last two years since we've been here is incredible."
Smith also noted, that as she kicked off her second Olympic experience, that it was great to see the people she knows from her years on the US Ski Team.
"It's pretty cool to have a lot of familiar faces," she said. "You feel at home, no matter where you go."
And as for home, Smith offered up her appreciation for the Mount Washington Valley.
"I am one of the most fortunate people out here being from a hometown area like the Mount Washington Valley," she said. "It makes me proud to be where I'm from.
"The messages, texts and e-mails are overflowing my inbox," she said. "I can't express to everyone how much that means."
Smith is expected to compete again in the Super-G, which will take place on Saturday, Feb. 15, at 11 a.m. (2 a.m. EST).
Joshua Spaulding can be reached at 569-3126 or email@example.com