For sheer novelty, the women’s Olympic giant slalom race was hard to beat. It featured rain, snow and fog – some skiers grinded their way through all three – and a violinist from Thailand determined to make her way to the bottom no matter what.
The crazy weather conditions after two weeks of sun and warm temperatures meant that none of the skiers could push themselves to the limit because of visibility problems; some of the best skiers, including Julia Mancuso of the United States, who won bronze in the super combined last week, couldn’t hang onto the course.
But no one complained about the snow itself even though the lower part of the course was getting pelted with rain.
Slovenia’s Tina Maze emerged from the meteorological mess with a gold, her second of the Games, turning her into superstar in her tiny country.
"I have dreamed about a day like this, even though it is raining,” she said. “I feel a little wet but that is fine.”
Anna Fenninger of Austria took silver. She won gold in the Super-G two days ago. The event’s defending gold medalist, Viktoria Rebensburg of Germany, took bronze.
Of the three Canadians in the race – Erin Mielznyski, Marie-Michele Gagnon and Marie-Pier Prefontaine – only Mielznyski made it across the finish line. She placed a respectable 20th out of the 67 women who completed the two-stage race.
“I have to keep my expectations realistic,” she said. “I’ve only had one top 30 in GS so I came here to get a start and getting another top 30 at the Olympics is really big for me and builds my confidence. Some of the turns I made today I’m very proud of."
The Canadian women skiers have had a disappointing Games. The slalom on Friday will give them one last chance to shine.
One of the biggest cheers went to Vanessa Vanakorn, the wealthy, glamorous violin virtuoso who was competing under the Thailand flag. Better known as Vanessa Mae, she was skiing under the surname of her natural father – Vanakorn – who is Thai.
Vanakorn, who is 35, making her one of the oldest alpine athletes at Sochi, finished dead last, with a combined time of 50 seconds behind the leader. Her plodding, careful performance did not embarrass her in the slightest.
"It's so cool," she told the BBC. "You've got the elite skiers of the world and then you've got some mad old woman like me trying to make it down. I think it's great the Olympics is here - it gives you the chance to try something new later in life. If you do everything when you're young, you leave no fun until the end."
She admitted she almost got lost on her way down, convinced at one point that she was on the wrong side of a couple of gates.