Olympics 2010: Vonn, Mancuso Win Gold, Silver for U.S.

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The Americans ruled the podium in a women’s downhill that lived up to Olympic expectations for excitement.

Lindsey Vonn, showing little ill effects from a shin injury that last week cast her medal hopes in doubt, charged the rough and highly technical Whistler track under sunny skies, laying down a spectacular run to claim her first gold with apparent ease. Only teammate Julia Mancuso—whose run was equally electrifying, came close, .56 seconds out. Austrian  Elisabeth Goergl was a distant third, 1.46 seconds behind Vonn.

Mancuso, the Torino GS gold medalist, may not have been on many lists of pre-race favorites, but the turny course appeared to suit her nimble, athletic style. Mancuso ran eighth, and until Vonn roared out of the gate, ponytail flying, only Goergl could manage to come within a second of her.

But where Mancuso looked nimble, Vonn was smooth and powerful, skiing what appeared to be a flawless run. Fellow pre-race favorite and close friend Maria Reisch of Germany, the last real threat, wearing Bib 22, wasn’t even close, settling for eighth place, 2.02 back.

Stacey Cook finished 11th for the Americans. US Team newcomer Alice McKennis skied out, then gamely finished her run, but was DQ’d.

Though men’s race, held Monday, was fiercely competitive—with a Top 15 pack separated by less than a second—the women’s packed more excitement, certainly in terms of crashes. Somehow, Anja Paerson appeared not to be seriously injured after crashing in spectacular fashion in view of the finish. On the final jump, which gave several of the women trouble, she got back on her skis, then launched a 200-foot air, crashing onto her front and sliding through a gate.

With three medals in two races, American skiers appear to be taking their “Best in the World” motto to heart. With clear skies in the forecast, competition resumes Thursday with the women’s combined, followed by men’s super G on Friday and women’s Super G on Saturday.

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