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Lindsey Vonn’s exit cracks open the door for teammate success at Sochi Olympics

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With Lindsey Vonns hopes for Olympic glory now extinguished, the dreams of her speed demon teammates have now been kindled.

“This means there will be an additional spot so that one of my teammates can go for gold," said the departing Vonn who decided today to end her run for the Sochi Olympics.

Several downhill and super-G specialists are sure bets to seize this opening. Vancouver Olympics medalist Julia Mancuso leads a pack of medal hopefuls: Leanne Smith, Stacey Cook, and Julia Ford.

Yet, despite this opportunity, this alpine unit has not shown the success it takes to land on this Olympic podium.

Vonn’s departure is a huge, sobering setback for Alex Hoedlmoser, women's alpine Head Coach, whose women’s squad is now being scrutinized by all.

The taskmaster Hoedlmoser previously said, "If we sit on our success, other teams will pass us. In order to defend our position and to improve, we need to set high goals and work even harder."

As a whole, this squad’s performance has been overshadowed by last season’s results where Americans won several podium spots, and landed six skiers within the top 16 among the FIS overall downhill standings.

Unlike last year, no American skier has broken the top 25 barrier. In the super-G, Smith’s 16th overall position represents the best that Team USA has to offer.

Veteran Mancuso, who holds the 26th and 27th position in the overall downhill and super-G standings respectively, has surprisingly finished no higher than a 12th during this Olympics qualifying run. Teammates Cook and Ford have fared even worse.

“We’re all leaning on each other. Just all of us together trying to go fast. Everyone is cheering for each other and that’s always fun,” Mancuso reflected after a recent world cup outing.

Fortunately, technical specialist Mikaela Shiffrin has stepped-up to give Team USA a chance at Winter Olympics medals. She currently holds the first and sixth overall spots in the slalom, and giant slalom respectively, and has raced to five podium finishes.

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