By Patrick Vignal
WHISTLER (Reuters) - While top names failed to live up to unreasonable expectations in the Alpine skiing competition at the Vancouver Games, others shone through turbulent skies to provide a reminder of what the true Olympic spirit is all about.
Lindsey Vonn's downhill gold and super-G bronze enhanced the American's reputation as the queen of speed events and were a remarkable achievement after she bruised her shin in a pre-Games crash and broke a finger while competing.
It was, however, a far cry from the five medals some had predicted and the "Vonn-couver" Games were not to be.
"I had a great Olympics," Vonn told Reuters, pointing out that she was not responsible for all the hype. "I came away with a gold medal and a bronze medal and that's all that I could have asked for."
Men's skiing's new sensation Carlo Janka also played his part with a commanding victory in the giant slalom but that was the only gold the gifted Swiss skier could get his hands on.
The form books are often torn to pieces at Olympics and awful conditions with mild, damp weather and soft, deteriorating pistes did not help, making some races a bit of a lottery.
Further evidence that pre-written Olympic scripts do not work came from the Austrian men's team, who left Winter Games empty-handed for the first time since 1936 and could not quite explain how it happened.
Some still managed to make true class show.
Maria Riesch, the world's second-best skier behind Vonn on the World Cup stage, rose to the occasion and made the most of her all-round skills to become the only skier to win two golds on the Whistler slopes, in super combined and slalom.
The modest German, who consoled her sobbing sister Susanne after she missed out on a slalom medal, also became the first woman to finish all five Alpine skiing events at Winter Games in the top 10.
Bode Miller highlighted another Olympic value, the fun factor, to collect a complete set of medals including his first gold.
The rebellious American, who grew up in a log cabin with no tap water, rediscovered the ski-mad child in himself to win gold in the super combined, silver in super-G and bronze in downhill in probably his final Olympic appearance.
"It's unbelievably challenging to let all this stuff go and just race like I was a little kid," he told reporters. "You are not thinking about all the things that old people are supposed to think about, you are just going because you love to race fast and love to try hard and it is a really special feeling."
Anja Paerson provided a genuine Olympic moment when she recovered from a horrific downhill crash to win a record-equaling sixth medal with bronze in the super combined.
There were a handful of surprise but worthy champions such as Didier Defago in the men's downhill, Andrea Fischbacher in the women's super-G, Viktoria Rebensburg in the women's giant slalom and Giuliano Razzoli in the men's slalom.
Swiss Defago may not be the most glamorous racer around but a closer look at his resume, featuring wins in the classic Kitzbuehel and Wengen downhills, showed he had every right to win the showpiece event.
Janka, 23, the 20-year-old Rebensburg and Vonn, who said her Vancouver experiences would help her next time, should be among those starting the 2014 Sochi Games hungry for gold.
They all know from their Canadian fortnight that tasting Olympic glory is not so much about form and talent as about lighting a little flame inside yourself to enjoy a unique moment.
(Additional reporting by Alan Baldwin and Simon Evans)