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Finishing 19th was like winning gold, says Alcott

IT was not a record, a personal best or even top 10.

Indeed, when they come to write the history of these Games, Chemmy Alcott's 19th place in a memorable Olympic women's downhill won't even be a footnote.

However, Britain's best alpine skier in a generation insisted it felt like gold. It's impossible not to like Alcott, she has always talked a good game but repeatedly seen injury prevent her being able to prove if she could actually deliver on her word.

She had 42 rivals in yesterday's field - exactly the same number of fractures she claims to have had during her career. It seems Alcott makes up with the lack of metal hanging around her neck by boosting a virtual scrapyard inside her body.

It is too easy to write her off as a pretty face; at the start of her career she was dubbed the Anna Kournikova of skiing and it was not always meant as a compliment. However, she has raised on her own the £40,000 she needed to fund her Olympic campaign and recovered from two broken legs in four years to make it.

Those who dismiss her should try tackling the hardest Olympic downhill ever devised, a gravity-defying beast of a piste on which skiers cross the line approximately 10 seconds before their stomachs.

The 31-year-old has barely competed this season and it was touch and go whether team selectors would give her the benefit of the doubt to travel to Russia. But she repaid their faith, and underlined her own self-belief, finishing 19th in Rosa Khutor, her time of 1min 43.43sec just two seconds off the pace as Switzerland's Dominique Gisin and Slovenia's Tina Maze became the first skiers to dead heat for Olympic alpine skiing gold.

"I know it sounds crazy to some people, especially when we have such a strong team here in Sochi, but 19th is a gold for me," said Alcott. "Anyone who has followed what I've been through will understand that. When I made the commitment to come here it was about personal goals. I never put any statistics on it; if I had, then top 20 would have been massively exceeding what I expected.

"This is right up there with everything I've done in my career. With perfect preparation for the Olympics I've had an 11th place and with the most imperfect preparations I've finished 19th, less than two seconds off in the toughest downhill I've ever skied.

"It's weird for me to say how much a 19th place means. I went into this sport to go for gold and I believe I had the talent to do that. If I'd ticked every box and not got injured I believe I had the potential to win but now my destiny is to show people how you can fight back."

Alcott might have been enjoying her virtual gold last night but Maze and Gisin insisted they were happy to share theirs.

Ties aren't uncommon in sport but there has never been one in Olympic alpine skiing and you need to go back to Sydney 2000, when American swimmers Gary Hall Jr and Anthony Ervin deadheaded in the 50m freestyle, for the last time in happened at the Games. However, it soon became clear they did not have identical times, the official Olympic timers Omega measuring their runs to a 10,000ths of a second but only reporting to the hundredth.

"I don't care about sharing because we are friends," said Maze. "We are linked together forever now, so we'll probably become better friends."

The crown for Olympic speed queen might be shared but Great Britain's Lizzy Yarnold starts her bid for skeleton gold today with only domination in mind. Yarnold is the hottest British favourite at these Games since Torvill and Dean, having dominated the World Cup season with seven podiums in eight races, including four golds. In five full training runs down the track here she has been quickest on four occasions.

"I've always had a love for speed," said Yarnold. "I just love that feeling of being almost out of control. I started skiing at Chamonix at the age of nine. I found myself at the top of the black run and I just put myself in a tuck position and held on tight. Ever since then, I've always been desperate just to get back to the top of the track and do things a bit better."

Yarnold's event won't be decided until tomorrow but another British medal hope, freestyle skier James Woods, is today's best British podium chance.

Ski slopestyle specialist Woods was ranked No.1 in the world last year but, to use his own words, wrote himself off with a slam in training, which makes his medal hopes today a little more gnarly. Consequently Woods, who won silver at last year's World Championships, is downplaying his medal chances.

"I'm not 100% and certain motions do hurt but everyone is carrying something," he said. "It's never going to be perfect you just have to do the best you can to perform as well as you can. Slopestyle is an extreme sport and everyone accepts the risk and I'm not blaming anything else or anyone else but myself. I want to get out there and give my absolute all, whether it's battling myself or everyone else in the field."

n Samsung are a partner of Team GB and are supporting the Samsung Galaxy Team. To meet the team, see exclusive content and win amazing prizes, including once-in-a-lifetime winter sport training sessions with Samsung Galaxy Team athletes, www.samsung.com/uk/sochi2014

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