One day to go, Games shrouded in skiing star suspense

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By Mary Milliken

VANCOUVER (Reuters) - American skiing ace Lindsey Vonn suited up and donned her skis on Thursday but came no closer to clearing up the biggest doubt of these Winter Olympic Games on the eve of their opening: will she be fit to race?

Fog and snow kept the favorite from schussing down Franz's downhill course in her first training run since announcing on Wednesday that a shin injury could thwart her quest for five medals at the Vancouver Games.

Foul weather may force more delays at Alpine venue Whistler, although the men did manage to eek out the downhill training to keep Saturday's inaugural race on schedule.

Ironically, poor conditions could pay off for Vonn -- and the success of the so-called "Vonn-couver" Games that have so much staked on the golden girl of skiing.

"A couple of days could help Lindsey," her husband Thomas Vonn told Reuters, noting that her free-ski, warm-up on Thursday did go well.

Only two downhill women contenders hit the course before the training was scrapped. The second, American Stacey Cook, suffered a heavy crash into the safety fence and had to be taken by helicopter to a hospital.

The freestyle skiing and snowboard competitors also faced weather woes on their Cypress Mountain venue as heavy rain washed away much of the snow that had blanketed the bare mountain on Wednesday.

"All of the lovely white stuff that we got last night, that I was so excited about -- it's all gone," said Cypress venue spokesman Stephen Bourdeau.


Vancouver opens on Friday the "most ambitious sporting event ever held on Canadian soil," Canada's prime minister, Stephen Harper, said on Thursday.

"We will ask the world to forgive us this uncharacteristic outburst of patriotism," Harper said, as Canadians drop their modesty in their zeal for a first gold medal at their own Games.

As much as Canada would like to surprise the world with its opening ceremony, the first in an indoor stadium in the 86-year history of Winter Olympics, it is struggling to keep a lid on normally well guarded preparations.

Despite confidentiality agreements, the digital diversions of those attending the dress rehearsals have led to leaks of the ceremony via iPhones and social network sites like Twitter.

Organizers say everything is in place for a successful Vancouver Games.

"The level of preparation is excellent, sites and infrastructure are superb and we have excellent feedback from athletes," said Rene Fasel, the International Olympic Committee coordination commission chief overseeing Vancouver Games preparations.

"It is not over, it is just starting and so as they say in Canada when a job needs to be done, let's drop the puck," Fasel added.

(Editing by Jon Bramley)