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The Winter Olympics 2010: American Transcends Pain to Win Downhill

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February 17, 2010

In a display of determination over pain, Lindsey Vonn of the United States shrugged off the effects of a severely bruised shin and won the gold medal in the women's downhill by more than half a second. Her teammate Julia Mancuso finished second.

Vonn became the first American woman ever to win the downhill skiing race. Hilary Lindh in 1992 and Picabo Street in 1994 won silver. Mancuso's second-place finish meant the Americans had a 1-2 finish for the first time ever in the downhill.

Even though Vonn was the heavy pre-race favorite, whether she would even race had been in doubt since Feb. 2, when she badly bruised her right shin during a training run in Austria. She spent the next two weeks rehabilitating. The weather in and around Vancouver had not been at all conducive to training runs, so Vonn was able to keep resting and recovering.

Several other women crashed on their runs down the mountain. Sweden's Anja Pearson gave the crowd quite a scare when she came off the final jump too hard and flew more than 100 feet in the air before landing safely. Italy's Daniela Merighetti fell just before the final jump, her momentum carrying her headfirst through a skate and ripping both skis from her feet. She was uninjured. More serious was the crash by Edith Miklos of Romania, who lost control of her descent and hit safety nets at full throttle. Miklos was taken away in a helicopter.

Vonn herself had a bit of a wobble near the end of her run but stabilized. Mancuso, the 2006 slalom champion in Turin, raced early, scored a very fast time, and watched with growing anticipation as skier after skier fell short of her time (or simply fell). Still, it was Vonn's day atop the podium in the end, her pain a distant memory amid the joy of victory.

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