I reached my golden goal, says happy Vonn

By Simon Evans

WHISTLER (Reuters) - Lindsey Vonn came into the Vancouver Olympics hyped up as the likely golden girl of the Games but she left as just one of several skiers to make their mark.

Vonn's German rival Maria Riesch won two golds to her one; fellow American Julia Mancuso shined with two silvers and on the men's team Bode Miller's three medals were the big success story for the U.S.

But while she was unable to live up to the talk of a 'Vonn-couver Games', the American was happy with her performances on the Whistler slopes.

"I had a great Olympics. I came away with a gold medal and a bronze medal and that's all that I could have asked for," Vonn told Reuters after failing to finish Saturday's slalom.

Those medals were decent reward for Vonn but were inevitably short of some of the projections -- such as the hyped up suggestion of five gold medals.

"For me that was never my goal, five gold medals was never my goal," Vonn said.

"Of course I wanted to try and looking back four medals were very realistic but nothing goes the way you want it to, nothing is perfect. All that I could have done and all that I did was to go into the Olympics as best prepared as I could," she added.

Having dominated the speed events on the World Cup circuit, the Minnesota-born skier had won five of the six downhills, Vonn suffered a shin injury in pre-Olympic training in Austria and arrived in Canada worried she might not be able to compete.

While her emotional news conference sent the news networks into overdrive it quickly became apparent that her fears were exaggerated.

'PHYSICALLY READY'

Although Vonn skied with pain in her main events, she showed with her superb run in her gold medal downhill display that she was unhampered.

Vonn has not made the shin injury an excuse and while she might have been expected to improve on just a super G bronze from the remaining events, she said she met her personal targets.

"Obviously I had the injury but I was physically ready and mentally ready.

"I got the gold medal that I came here for and even though I didn't get all the medals that everyone else expected me to get -- I accomplished all of my dreams and I think that is what you have to keep in perspective," she added.

The hugely impressive downhill display was followed by a disappointment in combined where she was fastest in the downhill section but crashed out in the slalom leg.

In super G, Vonn's second gold medal hope, she eased off in the latter stages of her run and ended up only making bronze.

Then she failed to finish in giant slalom and regular slalom, disappointing results even if neither event was expected to bring glory.

The media attention switched from swimsuit magazine spreads, to her shin to her rivalry with Mancuso.

Inevitably, some will wonder if Vonn suffered from the excessive hype. She said it had been a learning experience.

"It's been interesting. It's been hard sometimes to hear some of the things that people say. Sometimes people say positive things, sometimes negative.

"For me it was important to stay focused on what I was here to do and not think about what people were writing about and saying.

"It's been an amazing Olympics though, it has given me a huge amount of experience going into the next one. I know a lot more about what to expect. I have never gone in with so much hype."

(Editing by Jon Bramley)