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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, February 18, 2010

Vonn breaks through with downhill gold

 •  Davis is good as gold again in 1,000 meters


Associated Press

Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

A badly bruised right shin couldn't stop Lindsey Vonn, of the United States, who is 1 for 1 after her victory in the women's downhill at the Vancouver Olympics. She is entered in four more Alpine events

GERO BRELOER | Associated Press

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WHISTLER, British Columbia None of it mattered one bit to Lindsey Vonn.

Not the badly bruised and swollen right shin, so painful at first it was tough to even walk, let alone zoom with abandon at 65 mph down an icy, bumpy mountain.

Not the anguish that came from knowing the injury in a practice crash two weeks ago curtailed her Olympic preparation and made her wonder whether she'd compete at all.

And certainly not those outsized expectations others were scripting, so much talk about becoming Vancouver's answer to Beijing's Michael Phelps, about winning medals plural and golds not any ol' color at these Winter Games.

With some Lidocaine cream numbing the bothersome bruise, some advice from her husband and a heap of skill and confidence, Vonn set everything else aside yesterday and did what she does better than every other woman in the world: ski fast.

Vonn won the downhill in 1 minute, 44.19 seconds more than a half-second quicker than anyone else to collect her first career Olympic medal in the opening women's race. It's the first downhill gold for an American woman, and Vonn combined with Julia Mancuso to give the United States its first 1-2 finish in an Olympic Alpine event since 1984. Elisabeth Goergl of Austria was third, nearly 1 1/2 seconds behind Vonn.

"A huge weight has been lifted off my shoulders now. I got the gold medal that I came here to get. And now I'm just going to attack every day, with no regrets and no fear," said Vonn, a 25-year-old who lives and trains in Vail, Colo. "And, I mean, I'm just happy with one. Anything else from here on out is a bonus."

In other words: Look out, everybody.

Vonn feels pressure-free, and she proved to herself she can deal with the pain, which was at its most intense when she landed the final jump.

"Now I can ski confidently," Vonn said. "I know I can do it, even with the shin injury."

She's entered in all five events and could make it 2-for-2 in today's super-combined, which was postponed last weekend because of too-wet, too-warm weather. Freezing overnight temperatures made the downhill slope especially slick yesterday, and a series of scary falls prompted organizers to shorten the course and shave down the final jump before today's action.

Vonn and Mancuso have raced against each other since they were kids, and while hardly fast friends off the slope, they were speedy as can be on this sun-splashed afternoon with nary a trace of fog or cloud. Both wore the newfangled polyester-knit body suits made for the U.S. Ski Team, the ones with no real texture or seams to reduce wind drag.

If this Olympic medal thing was new to Vonn she sobbed when it became clear the gold would be hers and kept calling this "the best day of my life!" not so for Mancuso, of Squaw Valley, Calif. Mancuso won the giant slalom at the Turin Olympics, and said yesterday, her trademark tiara propped atop her hair: "I've always just known that I would get a medal here."

SHORT TRACK

OHNO ADVANCES

Apolo Anton Ohno easily advanced through the preliminaries of the 1,000, staying on course to surpass Bonnie Blair as the most decorated U.S. Winter Olympian.

Ohno, who won his sixth Olympic medal in the 1,500 Saturday, was third most of the way. Then, in the closing laps, he moved up to second before using a smooth inside move to take the lead over China's Liang Wenhao.

From there, Ohno cruised to the finish line well ahead of the others to advance to the semifinals later Wednesday.

Ohno also joined J.R. Celski, Simon Cho and Travis Jayner in qualifying for the 5,000 relay final on Saturday.

Wang Meng of China easily won her second consecutive gold medal in the women's 500 meters. She led all the way after surviving a restart and a false start in the four-woman final.

Wang cruised home well ahead of Canada's Marianne St-Gelais, who took silver. Arianna Fontana of Italy earned the bronze.

MEN'S FIGURE SKATING

TOP THREE SET FOR FINAL

OK, guys, let's see what you've got.

If the short program is an accurate indication, what Evgeni Plushenko, Evan Lysacek and Daisuke Takahashi have is the goods to grab gold.

"The truth is, 90 is a pretty darn good score in the short and if one guy had a 90, it's great. It shows the depth of this competition that three guys got 90," Lysacek said yesterday. "It's pretty impressive and shows the quality of the competition."

It also shows how the top three have broken away from the rest of a strong field. Reigning Olympic champion Plushenko of Russia has 90.85 points going into tonight's men's final, .55 ahead of Lysacek, the current world champ from the United States. Japan's Takahashi is .05 behind Lysacek.

Takahashi has a 5.40-point edge on countryman Nobunari Oda, with Turin silver medalist Stephane Lambiel of Switzerland another .22 back. Even Johnny Weir, a three-time U.S. champion in sixth place, and Canadian hope Patrick Chan (seventh after the short) believe they could win a medal.

Bronze, perhaps.

CROSS-COUNTRY

RUSSIAN MEN FINISH 1-2

A milelong sprint came down to a few inches, with Russia's Nikita Kriukov getting the front of his ski across the finish line just ahead of countryman Alexander Panzhinskiy in the men's individual classic cross-country sprint race. A photo finish was needed to determine the winner.

In the women's individual sprint, Norway's Marit Bjoergen pulled away at the end for her first gold medal.

LUGE

BROTHERS GET GOLD AGAIN

Austrian brothers Andreas and Wolfgang Linger won their second straight gold medal in doubles luge.

The Lingers completed their two runs in 1 minute, 22.705 seconds. Andris and Juris Sics of Latvia finished in 1:22.969 and won silver, and Germany's Patric Leitner and Alexander Resch took bronze with a time of 1:23.404.

CURLING

USA MEN, WOMEN FALL

The U.S. women fell to 0-2, losing to Germany when skip Debbie McCormick's squad couldn't make up a two-point deficit in the final end.

The men fell to 0-3 with a 7-6 loss to Switzerland.