Vonn Takes Gold, Mancuso Wins Silver

Vonn Takes Gold, Mancuso Wins Silver (LA Times / February 17, 2010)

WHISTLER, BRITISH COLUMBIA -- (AP) If this is how Lindsey Vonn skis with a bruised shin, then the rest of the field has no chance.

Vonn showed no signs of discomfort when she won the Olympic downhill by more than half a second Wednesday, with childhood rival and American teammate Julia Mancuso taking a surprise silver medal.

"This is everything I've wanted and hoped for," Vonn said, her voice choked with emotion. "I gave up everything for this."

Vonn hurt her right shin Feb. 2 during pre-Olympic training in Austria and had hardly skied over the past two weeks. Still, as the two-time defending overall World Cup champion and the winner of five of the six downhills this season, she was an overwhelming favorite.

"She had the weight of the world on her," said Vonn's husband and chief adviser, a former U.S. skier who also serves as a personal coach. "People were basically hanging the medal around her neck before the start. That's incredibly hard to deal with."

Thomas Vonn was up at the top of the hill before his wife's run, and the Vonns embraced in a hug that lasted for 30 seconds when they reunited at the finish.

"It was one of the most clutch runs I've ever seen," Thomas Vonn said.

In a race characterized by several crashes - including one to Swedish standout Anja Paerson - Vonn's sped down Franz's Downhill in 1 minute, 44.19 seconds.

Mancuso finished 0.56 seconds behind, and Elisabeth Goergl of Austria took the bronze medal, 1.46 seconds back.

Maria Riesch of Germany, Vonn's best friend and usual rival of late, finished eighth. Andrea Fischbacher of Austria placed fourth, Fabienne Suter of Switzerland fifth and Whistler local Britt Janyk of Canada sixth.

The comfortable margin was in sharp contrast to the men's downhill Monday, when only 0.09 seconds separated the winner, Didier Defago of Switzerland, from the bronze medalist, Bode Miller. That was the tiniest margin between first and third place in Olympic men's downhill history.

It's the third time Americans have finished 1-2 in an Olympic Alpine race, and the first time in 26 years.

At the 1984 Sarajevo Games, brothers Phil and Steve Mahre took gold and silver in the slalom and Debbie Armstrong and Christin Cooper accomplished the feat in giant slalom.

No American woman had won the Olympic downhill before. Hilary Lindh and Picabo Street both took silver - in 1992 and 1994, respectively.

Vonn swept the downhill and super-G at last season's world championships in Val d'Isere, France, but had never won an Olympic medal. She had a horrific crash in downhill training at the 2006 Turin Games.

Mancuso won the giant slalom in Turin but hadn't finished on the podium since the Olympic test downhill here two years ago. The Squaw Valley, Calif., skier has won only two World Cup downhills in her career, the last nearly three years ago.

"Coming off a back injury last year, I was in a lot of rehab. I knew that I just had to hang on and keep going for it," Mancuso said. "It's really been a tough, long road. I'm happy to be in a position where I feel healthy."

Mancuso was an early starter and still led when Vonn skied.

Vonn, a Minnesota native who lives and trains in Vail, Colo., put on a skiing clinic for all the world to see.