ST. MORITZ, Switzerland — Lindsey Vonn's rivalry with World Cup leader Tina Maze heated up and threatened to boil over Saturday, when the Slovenian's coaches accused the American defending champion of hurling an insulting expletive after winning a super-G.
Vonn edged Maze to remain perfect in four speed races this season, then was shocked to find herself in a fight she hadn't intended and didn't want.
In venting her emotions on crossing the line, and realizing she had taken the lead from main challenger Maze, Vonn acknowledged she used a curse word as an expression of relief.
Still, the Slovenian team — which targeted a three-race weekend sweep for Maze after her win in Friday's super-combined — surprised most observers by alleging Vonn deliberately aimed an insult, and filed an official protest for unsportsmanlike behavior.
They think I said something very bad about her when I came to the finish and that is absolutely not true, a clearly stunned Vonn said minutes after being told of the allegation. It definitely hurts. I would never say anything bad about another athlete at the finish.
Vonn accepted that she had sworn — and I shouldn't have done that — but insisted it was a reaction to skiing poorly and failing to finish Friday, knowing she is still short of full fitness after a recent illness.
I'm struggling with my strength, the four-time World Cup champion said, insisting she was at her limits on Saturday. I came down (the slope) with everything I have.
Vonn's version was soon backed by World Cup women's race director Atle Skaardal, who joined United States and Slovenia team coaches to study television footage of her post-race reactions.