Lindsey Vonn shrugged off a shin injury to deliver the women’s downhill for one of three United States gold medals at the Vancouver Olympics.
Speed skater Shani Davis and snowboarder Shaun White got the other golds for the USand were also among four repeaters of 2006 titles, the others being China’s short track icon Wang Meng and the Austrian Linger luge brothers.
Apart from Austria, the other winter sport powerhouses Norway and Russia also got their first gold at last at the Games, from cross-country ski sprinters Marit Bjoergen and Nikita Kriukov, respectively.
At Whistler Creekside, Vonn claimed her first Olympic medal, posting 1 minute 44.19 seconds, 0.56 seconds ahead of teammate Julia Mancuso and 1.46 seconds up on third—placed Austrian Elisabeth Goergl, in a crash-filled downhill.
“I can’t stop crying,” Vonn said. “This is everything that I ever wanted and hoped for. I had a lot of ups and downs in my career.
Standing here today at the finish and to win, is amazing.” Vonn admitted last week that she was dealing with a shin injury and did not know how much success she could have — though she intends to compete in all five women’s alpine races, starting with Thursday’s super combined.
“The pressure for me is gone. I got exactly what I came here to get, the gold medal. I never expected I wouldn’t win one. But a lot of weight is off my shoulders,” she said.
Vonn is the first American Olympic women’s downhill champion and the one-two marked the first time two Americans have been on an alpine podium since Debbie Armstrong and Christian Cooper finished one-two in the women’s giant slalom and brothers Phil and Steve Mahre took slalom gold and silver at the 1984 Sarajevo Games.
“I think the Americans perform well under pressure. We’re game-day athletes. We don’t hold anything back,” Vonn said.
There were several crashes, with five-time medallist Anja Paerson going down hard on the final jump but escaping serious injury. The Swedish veteran lost her balance and flew through the air before landing close to the finishing line.
Davis, meanwhile, won back-to-back Olympic 1,000-metre golds with victory at the Richmond Olympic Oval.
The 2006 Olympic champion set a track record of 1:08.94 minutes to beat Mo Tae-Bum of South Korea who collected silver to go with his 500m gold.Chad Hedrick of the United States clinched the bronze.
“It’s always nice to go out there and do it again,” Davis said.
At the 2006 Turin Games, the 27-year-old Chicago native became the first black athlete to win an individual gold medal in a winter sport, when he also took the silver in 1,500 metres.
White wrapped up the glorious US day with the evening halfpipe gold and could even save his top jump, the Double McTwist 1260, for the victory lap for which earned a staggering 48.8 points.
Peetu Piiroinen of Finland rose from fourth to silver with 45.0 points and Scott Lago got bronze for the US with 42.8 points.
The triple gold swept the US to the top of the medal table with five gold, three silver and six bronze, with Germany following on a 3-4-3 haul after 28 of 86 events.
Russia finally got gold when Kriukov pipped compatriot Alexander Panzhinskiy to the finish line in the men’s cross-country sprint, with world champion Petter Northug of Norway third.
However there was gold at last for Norway as well when Bjoergen clinched the women’s cross-country sprint for her first Olympic title. The four-time world champion stole the lead from Poland Justyna Kowalczyk in the final descent, while Petra Majdic defied a rib injury from a morning crash to take bronze for Slovenia.
The women’s 500m short track was as lopsided as Vonn’s and White’s victories with the multiple world champion Wang leading from start to finish for victory in 42.98 seconds at the Pacific Coliseum. There was delight for hosts Canada as Marianne St-Gelais took silver on her 20th birthday while bronze went to Italy’s Arianna Fontana.
Andreas and Wolfgang Linger were in full command at the Whistler Sliding Centre as they dominated both runs to become the second partners to defend their Olympic doubles luge title in 1:22.705 minutes.
Latvian siblings Andris and Juris Sics were surprise silver medallists and Patric Leitner and Alexander Resch took bronze for Germany in their last career race.