WHISTLER, British Columbia — Lindsey Vonn lived up to expectations and won the Olympic downhill Wednesday, and childhood rival and American teammate Julia Mancuso took a surprise silver medal.
In a race characterized by several crashes — including one to Swedish standout Anja Paerson — Vonn's bruised right shin proved not to be a hindrance as she sped down Franz's Downhill in 1 minute, 44.19 seconds.
Mancuso finished 0.56 seconds behind, and Elisabeth Goergl of Austria took the bronze medal, 1.46 seconds back.
Maria Riesch of Germany, Vonn's best friend and usual rival of late, finished eighth.
It's the third time two Americans have finished 1-2 in an Olympic Alpine race, and the first time in 26 years.
At the 1984 Sarajevo Games, brothers Phil and Steve Mahre took gold and silver in the slalom and Debbie Armstrong and Christin Cooper accomplished the feat in giant slalom.
Vonn was hurt Feb. 2 during pre-Olympic practice in Austria and had hardly skied over the past two weeks.
Still, as the two-time defending overall World Cup champion and the winner of five of the six downhills this season, she entered as an overwhelming favorite.
Mancuso won the giant slalom at the 2006 Turin Games but hadn't finished on the podium since the Olympic test downhill here two years ago. The Squaw Valley, Calif., skier has won only two World Cup downhills in her career, the last nearly three years ago.
Mancuso was an early starter and still led when Vonn skied.
Vonn, a Minnesota native who lives and trains in Vail, Colo., put on a skiing clinic for all the world to see.
Waiting in the starting gate with the sun reflecting orange off her goggles as she stared down the course, Vonn was a study in concentration. Kicking out of the start without regard to her bruised shin, she increased her lead at the first three checkpoints, kicking up a trail of smoky snow in her wake as if she were a race car, tucking at every opportunity.
Just when it seemed Vonn might go wide, she applied even more leg pressure, shifted her weight and maintained her line.
It wasn't all perfect, however, and Vonn lost nearly two tenths on the bottom, almost getting knocked off balance as she went over a small bump just before the finish.
It was more than enough for gold, however, and Vonn collapsed on her back in joy in the finish area. She then raised herself and placed both arms in the air in triumph.
A few moments later, Vonn's smile turned to a frown, as she watched with concern as Paerson lost control off the final jump, getting a huge amount of air and sliding through the finish headfirst.
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