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Vonn puts a bruising on the downhill

WHISTLER, British Columbia — None of it mattered one bit to Lindsey Vonn.

Not the badly bruised and swollen right shin, so painful at first it was tough to walk, let alone ski with abandon at 65 mph down an icy, bumpy mountain.

Not the anguish that came from the injury in a practice crash two weeks ago curtailing her Olympic preparation and making her wonder whether she'd compete.

And certainly not those outsized expectations others were scripting, so much talk about becoming Vancouver's answer to Beijing's Michael Phelps, about winning medals — plural — and golds — not just any color — at these Games.

With some Lidocaine cream numbing the bothersome bruise, some advice from her husband and a heap of skill and confidence, Vonn set everything else aside Wednesday and did what she does better than every other woman in the world: ski fast.

Vonn won the downhill in 1 minute, 44.19 seconds — more than a half-second quicker than anyone else — to collect her first Olympic medal in the opening women's race.

It's the first downhill gold for an American woman, and Vonn combined with Julia Mancuso to give the United States its first 1-2 finish in an Olympic Alpine event since 1984. Elisabeth Goergl of Austria was third, nearly 1½ seconds behind Vonn.

"A huge weight has been lifted off my shoulders now. I got the gold medal that I came here to get. And now I'm just going to attack every day, with no regrets and no fear," Vonn, 25, said. "And, I mean, I'm just happy with one. Anything else from here on out is a bonus."

Said Dexter Paine, the chairman of the United States Ski and Snowboard Association who was high-fiving in the stand like a nutty fan, "To go out and deliver under these conditions is unbelievable. This is like LeBron or Kobe, under pressure, doing it when the chips are down."

Vonn is entered in all five events and could make it 2-for-2 in today's super-combined, which was postponed last weekend because of too-wet, too-warm weather.

Freezing overnight temperatures made the downhill slope especially slick Wednesday, and a series of scary falls prompted organizers to shorten the course and shave down the final jump before today's action.

The downhill was interrupted for about a half-hour while Edith Miklos, a 21-year-old Romanian, was airlifted off the course by helicopter and treated for a knee injury.

Five-time Olympic medalist Anja Paerson, one of Vonn's chief rivals, lost control on the last leap, sailing about half a football field before landing on her back, tumbling through a gate and sliding across the red finish line. Paerson was badly bruised, but no bones were broken, and she wasn't immediately ruled out for today.

Marion Rolland of France stumbled out of the start and tore a ligament in her left knee not 5 seconds into her run, years of work discarded in an instant.

Vonn puts a bruising on the downhill 02/17/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, February 17, 2010 11:12pm]
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