Vonn Will Try To Duplicate Gold-Medal Run

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Lindsey Vonn speeds to the finish in Wednesday's downhill.

Lindsey Vonn of the United States speeds to the finish in the women's downhill at the Vancouver 2010 Olympics in Whistler, British Columbia. Tom Curley/AP hide caption

itoggle caption Tom Curley/AP

Alpine skier Lindsey Vonn races for her second gold medal at the Vancouver Olympics Thursday. Vonn is considered a favorite in the super-combined event, which pairs the breakneck speed of the downhill with the turning technique of the slalom.

Her first gold medal came despite a persistent and painful injury and a downhill course so challenging that six skiers crashed.

The 6,000 people filing into the Olympic downhill stadium on Wednesday were greeted by something extraordinary: sun-drenched slopes and blue skies. No heavy rain. No heavy snow. No thick fog. No more delays.

The day held promise for Vonn, the most hyped Olympian since Michael Phelps.

Everybody knows her, right? Especially, the Americans here?

"I don't exactly know who she is," said Sophia Siegel, 7, of San Francisco. Siegel was about to learn a lot.

When the race Vonn had been anticipating for years started, she exploded from the gate. Vonn failed to medal in the last two Olympics, but she has dominated the World Cup circuit — winning more races than anyone.

Two weeks ago, a severely bruised shin was so painful she suggested she might not ski these Olympics. Weather delays gave her time to heal, but this run was still painful.

At the finish, Vonn pumped her arms in the air.

"When I made it through that last jump I just was thinking I hope I did it, I hope I did it. Then when I crossed the finish line, I was just, I saw my name, No. 1, and I was just completely overwhelmed. I just collapsed and it was one of the best feelings I ever had."

Lindsey Vonn wins gold in women's downhill. Julia Mancuso wins silver. i

Lindsey Vonn of the United States (right) shows the gold medal she won in the women's downhill. With her at the medal ceremony is teammate and silver medallist Julia Mancuso. Luca Bruno/AP hide caption

itoggle caption Luca Bruno/AP
Lindsey Vonn wins gold in women's downhill. Julia Mancuso wins silver.

Lindsey Vonn of the United States (right) shows the gold medal she won in the women's downhill. With her at the medal ceremony is teammate and silver medallist Julia Mancuso.

Luca Bruno/AP

Vonn's husband, Thomas, told reporters the adrenaline of the Olympics helped his wife ski through the pain, along with some lidocaine cream.

"This is probably the bumpiest course I've ever run," Vonn said. "I think that's the worst thing you can have for a shin injury. But I was focused and determined and just tried not to think about it. It's all over now. I finished. I won. And I'm really happy."

The course is known as one of the toughest in the world, and six of the racers crashed, including Anja Paerson of Sweden, a five-time Olympic medalist.

Paerson seemed to launch off the last jump, flew through the air and landed hard on the snow, gliding face-first through the finish. Romanian Edith Miklos crashed through retaining fences and was airlifted to a hospital.

The skiers did not seem alarmed by this.

Stacey Cook of the United States crashed on the course last week during training. "It's a tough course. And it's the Olympics, and people are going for it. It's a great quality course. It's just really tough. It's pushing our limits. Then we're pushing our own limits on top of that."

Still, course officials decided to shave down the icy ridge that launches skiers into the last jump, perhaps with last week's fatal luge accident in mind.

They had until Thursday morning to get that done, because Vonn and other skiers are due back at the course for the downhill portion of the super-combined event.

Before she left the downhill Wednesday, Vonn and silver medalist and teammate Julia Mancuso made Sarah Ellis, 10, of Los Angeles very excited.

"I got my skill helmet signed by Lindsey Vonn and Julia," Ellis says. "Lindsey placed first in women's downhill and Julia got second."

Ellis held out the purple helmet with scrawled signatures, a souvenir of a day and skiers she'll most likely never forget.

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