JEONGSEON, South Korea — With the crowd — and her famous teammate — supporting her, Bend’s Laurenne Ross raced her way cleanly to a 15th-place finish Saturday in the women’s super-G at the Jeongseon Alpine Centre at the Winter Olympics.
Ross’ time was 1 minute, 22.17 seconds, in the single-run event.
American superstar Lindsey Vonn, a two-time Olympic gold medalist and a medal favorite for the super-G, finished tied for sixth in 1:21.49.
Ester Ledecka of the Czech Republic — a world champion snowboarder — claimed the gold medal in 1:21.11. Anna Veith of Austria took the silver medal (.01 seconds back), and Tina Weirather of Liechtenstein won the bronze (.11 back).
It was the second top-15 finish for Ross in the Olympics — she placed 11th in the downhill at the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, Russia.
Ross is competing in her second Olympics just 10 months removed from a devastating knee injury. While she said before the games that she believed she had an outside chance for a medal in super-G, she will have to settle for finishing 15th in a field of 45.
Just a few months ago, Ross did not know if she would even have a chance to qualify for the Olympics after tearing the ACL and meniscus in her right knee last March at the U.S. championships in Maine.
“There were multiple times where I wanted to quit, I wanted to give up and just get out of the pain, and stop pushing myself,” Ross said in an interview with The Bulletin before the Olympics. “There were a lot of times where I questioned what I was doing.”
She called it “the worst injury I’ve ever had to deal with. I basically destroyed my knee.”
But all that pain and hard work paid off, as Ross was back training on snow by October and back racing on the World Cup circuit in early December, just in time to qualify for Pyeongchang. She finished eighth in a World Cup super-G race in France in mid-December, and she posted four more top-30 super-G finishes this season. She also had respectable 13th-place and 17th-place finishes in World Cup downhill races in January.
Vonn — who made one critical mistake near the bottom of the course that might have cost her a medal — raced first on Saturday, and reportedly she was able to give Ross a report on the course conditions. Vonn — who has struggled with multiple injuries of her own throughout her career — was also supportive and helpful to Ross as the Bend skier recovered from her knee injury, according to Ross.
Ross finished right between the other two U.S. skiers in the race, as Breezy Johnson placed 14th (1:22.14) and Alice McKennis took 16th (1:22.20).
Vonn is expected to compete in the downhill in Pyeongchang.
U.S. coaches may also enter Ross in the women’s downhill, set for Wednesday (Tuesday evening Pacific time). Downhill training runs are scheduled for each of the three days before the competition. If coaches enter Ross in the training runs, her selection for the downhill race will likely be based on her performances in those training runs, according to her father, Rob Ross.
Bend’s Tommy Ford — Ross’ boyfriend — is set to compete in the men’s giant slalom on Sunday (Saturday evening Pacific time).