Lindsey Vonn Wins Olympic Gold

Lindsey Vonn won the Olympic downhill Wednesday, living up to pre-games expectations. American teammate Julia Mancuso took silver.

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MELISSA BLOCK, host:

From NPR News, it's ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.

We have a spoiler alert for you ahead of some very big Olympic news. If you're waiting for tonight's telecast, you might want to turn down the volume for a moment or two. For the rest of you, we have the latest from the Vonn-couver Olympics. American Lindsey Vonn has fought her way back from injury to win her first gold medal at the winter games. She took first place in the women's downhill today and she made history. She is the first American woman ever to win the Olympic downhill. Her teammate Julia Mancuso got the silver.

And with us now from Whistler is NPR's Howard Berkes. Howard, I gather there were a number of really bad crashes on the course today, and we're going to talk about those in a minute. But first, let's start with Lindsey Vonn. Tell us about her gold medal run.

HOWARD BERKES: Well, she just attacked the course right from the start very aggressively. And she and the other skiers who spoke afterwards said that that's what you had to do on this course today. It was a tough course. She was in pain, of course, from that shin injury that she's had. Her husband Tom told us later that that she could have skied without a foot today though because she was so psyched for this race. She - the adrenalin was flowing so hard for her.

He said that usually at the a race like this at the top, he's there with her to help calm her down. She said, go down to the bottom and watch, I'm okay - a sign to him that she was calm and she held steady through that course. It was a very tough course - bumpy. It hurt her shin, there's no doubt about it. But at the bottom she made it in the best time, of course, and was thrilled, just smiling, laughing, crying, happy, jumped in the crowd at one point. She's one very happy American skier today.

BLOCK: Howard, a tough course as you mentioned, and we mentioned those terrible crashes, how bad were they? What happened?

BERKES: Well, there were I've lost count actually. There were four or five crashes. One that looked like one skier was airlifted off and taken to a hospital. She crashed in a fence. But we asked the skiers about this as they came out after they did their runs and they all said that this is what Olympic skiing is about. It's the toughest course with the toughest skiers in the world. That's what you want in an Olympic race. They know that that's what they've come to expect. They know it's going to be a tough course. They know that there are going to be crashes. They've all witnessed those. They've all experienced them themselves, they said.

So, for them this was not anything unusual - at least this is what the skiers told us - this was not anything unusual. This was what you have at this high level of competition.

BLOCK: So, again, Lindsey Vonn with the gold, Julia Mancuso, also from the U.S., with silver and an interesting little footnote, Howard. The bronze medal goes to Austria's Elisabeth Gorgl. Her mother also won bronze in the downhill back in the '60s in the Olympics. So, a little symmetry there from the family. Howard, thanks very much.

BERKES: You're welcome, Melissa.

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