Winter Olympics Day Six Round-Up: Lindsey Vonn-Tastic
The USA surged past Germany in the medals table—taking three golds, one silver, and two bronze—while Russia belatedly won its first gold on the sixth day of competition. In total, 21 medals were awarded to 15 countries.
At Cypress Mountain, the women's alpine skiing downhill finally overcame disruptive weather conditions that had caused its postponement and further intensified the media's attention on the much-vaunted Lindsey Vonn.
The revelation that the two-time World Cup gold medallist had a shin injury could not inhibit expectation, and gold in the event still appeared predetermined—with only herself to blame should it be lost.
As she waited for her opportunity, Vonn appeared undaunted and relaxed—the only apparent alarm being related to concern about the welfare of those who had the misfortune to crash.
There had been a number of crashes during the course of the competition. The most harrowing were endured by Switzerland's Dominique Gisin, Itay's Daniela Merighetti and Sweden's Anja Pärson, which caused interruptions in the procession of the skiers.
Gisin suffered a spectacular fall after losing her balance, sliding relentlessly down the slope before hitting pronounced terrain that dramatically lifted her off the ground
Her momentary stillness caused anxiety amongst the spectators until she allayed those fears by raising herself upright. Although visibly upset, Gisin was able to leave the course unassisted.
When Vonn's turn came, the Minnesota-born 25-year-old provided the spectators with a scintillating and assured run that displaced compatriot Julia Mancuso with a recorded time of 1.44.19.
Canada's Erica Brydon struggled through her run, much to her visible and audible chagrin, and failed to enter the top 10.
One of Vonn's few rivals, Sweden's illustrious Anja Pärson, had her flawed run culminate in a dramatic crash that saw her propelled into the air like a ski jumper before gravity brought her hurtling back to the ground. The Swede was able to limp off, albeit in considerable pain.
When another of Vonn's challengers, Germany's Maria Riesch, could only manage 1.46.26, Vonn's gold was effectively hers with 23 skiers yet to compete.
With the final run by Bulgaria's Maria Kirkova, Vonn became an Olympic gold medalist, ahead of Mancuso and Austria's Elizabeth Goegl.
Vonn later told the media, "It's one of the most incredible moments of my life. When I crossed the finish line and saw my name in first and Julia's second, it was just the coolest thing...I made it down. It's awesome, it's all I ever wanted."
More ignominiously during the event, France's Marion Rolland veered to the right and collapsed into the snow just five seconds into her run.
Whether Rolland's embarrassment will be mitigated or exacerbated by the knee injury she also incurred is yet to be determined.
At Whistler, Marit Bjørgen of Norway raced to gold in the ladies' cross country individual sprint, with a time of 3.39.2. The gold was her second medal at the 2010 games and the fourth she has earned in her three Olympic games.
Poland's Justyna Kowalczyk finished 1.1. seconds behind Bjørgen, while Slovenia's Petra Majdič demonstrated exceptional fortitude to take bronze.
The veteran had sustained a severe injury the day before in training. Reports have conflicted as to the extent of her injuries, with some in Slovenia stating that she had broken four ribs and developed a pneumothorax.
Irrespective of her actual condition, the pain she was contending with was acutely visible during and after the race.
Majdič, who had been among the favourites, later effused that it had felt as if she had won a "gold medal with little diamonds on it."
In the men's version, Russia enjoyed a one-two on the podium to begin redressing the difficulties its contingent has encountered so far at the games.
The margin between first placed Nikita Kriukov and Alexander Panzhinskiy was minute—the official time difference being 0.0 seconds—and required a photo finish to separate them.
Bronze went to Norway's Petter Northug, whose coach attributed a perceived disappointment to skis of inadequate quality.
At the Richmond Olympic Oval, American speed skater Shani Davis adhered to his pre-race status of favourite to take gold in the 1,000-m, ahead of South Korea's Mo Tae Bum—who surprisingly placed first in the 500 m—and compatriot, Chad Hedrick.
The world record-holder became the first speed skater to defend his gold in the discipline and the third American to earn more than one gold. His overall time was 1.08.94.
For Hedrick, post-Turin struggles ensured that Bronze had no reason to dishearten him, and it meant he became the second American to medal in four disciplines.
It was a family affair at the Whistler Sliding Centre in the men's doubles' luge. Austrian brothers Wolfgang and Andreas Linger successfully defended their 2006 gold to prevent Germany from taking pole position in the sport's three Olympic disciplines.
The brothers' overall time of 1.22.705 was 0.264 ahead of Latvia's counterparts, Andris and Junis Sics. Bronze was secured by Germany's Patric Leitner and Alexander Resch.
The Pacific Coliseum was the venue for the climatic ladies 500 m short-track speed skating final. China's Wang Meng, who had established a new Olympic record in her semifinal with a time of 42.985, successfully defended her gold.
The victory ensured that China would maintain its domination of the discipline with three consecutive golds.
Canada's Marianne St-Gelais celebrated her 20th birthday with a silver medal, repeating the distinction of such an auspicious coincidence enjoyed by Mo Tae-Bum in the men's 1,000-m event. Bronze was claimed by Italy's Arianna Fontana, who received a bronze in the 3,000-m at the Turin games.
British skater Sarah Lindsay, meanwhile, was vociferous in her criticism of Canada's Jessica Gregg after she was disqualified following a collision and insisted her race should have had a second restart.
In the men's halfpipe at Cypress Mountain, the USA's Shaun White continued his snowboarding pre-eminence with a record points total of 48.4—3.4 ahead of Finland's Peetu Piiroinen.
The flying mane of vivid red hair, who has become one of the sport's most marketable representatives, had an absorbing day, executing a double "McTwist" 1260 to attain the pinnacle of his sensational perfomances.
White later commented, "I just felt like I didn't come all the way to Vancouver not to pull out the big guns. I put down the tricks I've worked so hard on."
Scott Lago completed the day's medal haul for the USA with a bronze.
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