The Vonn-couver Olympics
Published 1:23 am Thursday, February 18, 2010
(AP) — Lindsey Vonn crossed the finish line, saw her time, then yelled and fell backward onto the snow.
Joy? Relief? Pain?
All the emotions that come with being a gold-medal winner.
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Despite a bruised right shin that made it painful to even wear a ski boot, Vonn dominated a crash-marred downhill to win the first of her five events at the Vancouver Olympics. (Or, as the hats seen in the crowd read: the Vonn-couver Olympics.)
“I gave up everything for this,” she said. “It means everything to me. … I dreamed about what this would feel like, but it is much better in real life.”
Teammate and childhood rival Julia Mancuso was a surprising second, giving Americans the top two medals in an Alpine race for the first time in 26 years.
Later in the day, Shani Davis added a gold in 1,000-meter speedskating. His victory gave the United States its fourth gold medal, the most of any country. The Americans also led in overall medals with 12, three more than Germany.
The victories by Vonn and Davis put the United States off to a great start in what was shaping up as a big day for the delegation.
In the halfpipe, Shaun White began his defense of his Olympic title by easily making it through qualifying and led after the first heat of the finals. Short-track speedskater Apolo Anton Ohno also had a good night, easily advancing through preliminaries of the men’s 1,000 and helping the United States move on to the 5,000 relay final. Both finals are Saturday, when Ohno can add to his cache of six Olympic medals and become the most decorated U.S. Winter Olympian.
Since getting hurt in practice two weeks ago, Vonn spent more time with Austrian curd cheese smeared on her shin than being on the slopes. Several weather delays bought her time and kept her competition from getting too comfortable on this course.
She kicked out of the gate strong, building a quick lead and building on it. Just when it seemed she might lose control, she regained her form and kept charging toward the finish. A small bump just before the finish cost her a few ticks, but she still wound up winning by 0.56 seconds.
“I fought the whole way down,” she said. “It wasn’t a perfect run. I attacked, and I made it down.”
Maria Riesch of Germany, Vonn’s best friend and usual rival of late, finished eighth.
The course was tough, as evidenced by all the crashes. Swedish standout Anja Paerson went down hard, and another competitor had to be airlifted out. Yet another crashed across the finish line and disappeared under a logo of a skier; in trying to get up, she stuck out one ski, making for a bizarre image.
The only times Americans took gold and silver in an Alpine race both happened at the 1984 Sarajevo Games, with brothers Phil and Steve Mahre going 1-2 in the slalom and Debbie Armstrong and Christin Cooper doing so in giant slalom.
Vonn will be favored in two more races. It remains to be seen how much this event took out of her — or if it’s the start of a Phelps-like domination.
“I have what I want, and I’ll just keep fighting every day,” she said. “It’s definitely a huge relief that I finally did it.”
Davis didn’t come close to a medal in his first two events at these Olympics, but he came through in the 1,000, an event in which he holds the world record. With an impressive final kick, he edged South Korea’s Mo Tae-bum, who won the 500 and whose early pace Davis struggled to match.
Davis even shared the podium with Chad Hedrick again after the other American hopeful took the bronze. Davis and Hedrick had a nasty feud at the 2006 Turin Games, but both appeared in good spirits after Wednesday’s race. Davis and Hedrick finished second and third in the 1,500 in Turin.
“When you’re a world champion or an Olympic champion, you get this little thing on your back called a target,” said Davis, the first male skater to win this event a second time at the Winter Games. “To go out there and win the 1,000 meters twice is truly amazing.”
Ohno easily advanced through the preliminaries of the 1,000, staying on course to surpass Bonnie Blair as the most decorated U.S. Winter Olympian.
Ohno, who won his sixth Olympic medal in the 1,500 Saturday, was third most of the way. Then, in the closing laps, he moved up to second before using a smooth inside move to take the lead over China’s Liang Wenhao.
From there, Ohno cruised to the finish line well ahead of the others to advance to the semifinals later Wednesday.
Ohno also joined J.R. Celski, Simon Cho and Travis Jayner in qualifying for the 5,000 relay final on Saturday.
Wang Meng of China easily won her second consecutive gold medal in the women’s 500 meters. She led all the way after surviving a restart and a false start in the four-woman final.
Wang cruised home well ahead of Canada’s Marianne St-Gelais, who took silver. Arianna Fontana of Italy earned the bronze.
With an assist on Finland’s opening goal in a 5-1 victory over Belarus, Teemu Selanne matched the record for most career points in the Olympics.
Selanne has 20 goals and 16 assists in five Olympics. Also with 36: Valeri Kharlamov of Russia, Vlastimil Bubnik of the former Czechoslovakia and Harry Watson of Canada.
There were initial concerns Selanne would not be able to play because of surgery last month for a broken jaw. He returned Feb. 1 and played seven games for Anaheim.
Defending champion Sweden shook off a slow start as Mattias Ohlund and Loui Eriksson scored in the second period to help beat Germany 2-0.
The Swedes did not have a shot on net until midway through the scoreless first period in their Vancouver Games opener.
So much for Canada’s first real test.
Meghan Agosta had three goals and two assists, Hayley Wickenheiser became the leading goal-scorer in Olympic history, and Canada routed the toughest opponent in its preliminary-round group, beating Sweden 13-1.
Wickenheiser got her 16th Olympic goal among her five points as the Canadians cruised into the semifinals with three victories by a combined 41-2.
A milelong sprint came down to a few inches, with Russia’s Nikita Kriukov getting the front of his ski across the finish line just ahead of countryman Alexander Panzhinskiy in the men’s individual classic cross-country sprint race. A photo finish was needed to determine the winner.
In the women’s individual sprint, Norway’s Marit Bjoergen pulled away at the end for her first gold medal after winning two silvers at previous Olympics and a bronze in the 10K race Monday.
Pre-race favorite Petra Majdic of Slovenia hurt her ribs in a training crash early Wednesday, but managed to salvage a bronze. She collapsed immediately after crossing the finish line.
Austrian brothers Andreas and Wolfgang Linger won their second straight gold medal in doubles luge.
The Lingers completed their two runs in 1 minute, 22.705 seconds. Andris and Juris Sics of Latvia finished in 1:22.969 and won silver, and Germany’s Patric Leitner and Alexander Resch took bronze with a time of 1:23.404.
It was just the second time a doubles team won in consecutive Olympics. Germany’s Hans Rinn and Norbert Hahn did it in 1976 and 1980.
The U.S. women fell to 0-2, losing to Germany when skip Debbie McCormick’s squad couldn’t make up a two-point deficit in the final end.
The men fell to 0-3 with a 7-6 loss to Switzerland.
Want an unobstructed picture of the Olympic cauldron? Not a problem any more.
Organizers of the Vancouver Games opened a viewing ramp Wednesday to bring visitors closer to the Olympic cauldron. A chain-link fence around the flame also was moved closer, with a 6-inch-wide strip cut into it for people taking pictures from ground level.
Olympic organizers initially drew criticism for making the flame inaccessible to the public. It was one of a series of glitches that have marred the opening days of the Winter Games.
DEFENDING THE GAMES
The head of the Vancouver Olympics isn’t so fond of talk about these being the Glitch Games.
Despite mechanical failures ranging from the cauldron at the opening ceremony to an ice-resurfacing machine, ticket cancellations, weather woes and more, VANOC CEO John Furlong says the problems are being fixed and the games are inspiring euphoria across the country.
He also acknowledged, “When we make mistakes, we have to fix them,” such as opening access to the cauldron.
The body of the Georgian luger killed during a practice run was flown Wednesday to his hometown, where his grief-stricken mother threw herself on his coffin and cried: “Why have I survived you?”
Nodar Kumaritashvili’s body arrived in a flag-draped coffin at the Georgian capital’s airport before dawn, met by relatives and onlookers. The 21-year-old is to be buried Saturday at a churchyard in Bakuriani, a village of about 1,500 that is located in one of Georgia’s most popular winter sports regions.
The luger’s mother, Dodo Kharazishvili, became so upset an ambulance team was called to help her.
The casket was taken to the family home, located on a street that local authorities have renamed in the athlete’s honor. Hundreds of mourners gathered there, and many struggled to contain tears.
Among the mourners was Levan Gureshidze, a fellow Olympic luger who grew up and trained with Kumaritashvili but withdrew from the games after his friend’s death. He said he could not bear to compete after the accident that took his teammate’s life.
The gold for U.S. TV viewership on Tuesday night went to “American Idol.”
Fox’s talent show was watched by 23.6 million viewers, far ahead of the 19.7 million viewers for the Olympics coverage.
Once “Idol” ended, Olympic viewership grew to 20.3 million.
Just NBC’s luck, Tuesday was the first day of the Vancouver Olympics that an American did not win a medal.