Down goes Vonn! Lindsey tumbles in super-combined, Mancuso soars to second straight silverBy Jaime Aron, AP
Thursday, February 18, 2010
Down goes Vonn! Lindsey tumbles in super-combined
VANCOUVER, British Columbia — It wasn’t the shin. It was a tactical error that cost Lindsey Vonn a shot at her second gold medal of the Vancouver Olympics.
Trying to make a hard cut during the slalom leg of the super-combined, Vonn skied over an inside gate. The pole smacked against her leg and flicked her right ski clean off her boot, sending Vonn sliding down the snow and right out of the medals picture.
Vonn pounded the icy ground in frustration, agony, pain — you name it, she probably felt it. Eventually, the sting was eased just a tad by the gold going to her best friend Maria Riesch of Germany and the silver to teammate Julia Mancuso, who also won silver in the downhill.
“I was disappointed, but I went down fighting,” Vonn said. “I had to give it everything I had and, in slalom, anything goes.”
So Vonn will not win five medals in Vancouver, much less five golds.
But how close might she come?
She said her bruised right shin is “killing me, it hurts so bad.” Three hard runs in two days were mostly to blame, and it remains to be seen whether the tumble made it worse. Then again, there’s also the chance this stumble stokes her competitive juices.
Answers could come as soon as Saturday, in the super-G, another event she’ll go into as the favorite.
“I hope the next day off will help get it healed,” she said.
Canada won another gold Thursday, in speedskating, and Norwegians won the men’s and women’s biathlon events.
There were two crowns left to be awarded Thursday night, with American contenders in both: Evan Lysacek in men’s figure skating and Kelly Clark in women’s halfpipe.
The United States remains comfortably ahead on the medals count, still boosted by Tuesday’s six-medal haul, its best day ever at a Winter Olympics.
The numbers: 15 total medals in 32 events, with five golds. Germany is second in both total medals (11) and golds (four).
In nonmedal action Thursday, the men’s hockey team won again, this time with Summer Olympics golden boy Michael Phelps cheering from the stands, and the men’s curling squad lost again. Both women’s teams also were in action.
Vonn was leading after the downhill portion, but Riesch was close behind and the slalom is her specialty. She showed why with a quick, clean run that might’ve been tough for even a healthy Vonn to top.
And Vonn was certainly hurting. She said after the downhill portion that her shin hurt as much as ever since being injured Feb. 2.
Skiing last among the medal contenders, Vonn was 0.07 seconds ahead of Reisch’s pace at the first checkpoint, then 0.18 seconds behind at the second checkpoint.
She never made it to the third checkpoint.
Riesch’s slalom run came after Mancuso and before Vonn. After crossing the finish line, she punched the air and put her hands on her goggles in delight when she saw her time.
The best celebration, however, went to Mancuso.
Having gone to first after her slalom run, she knew she’d get nothing worse than bronze, guaranteeing at least one American would end a drought in women’s combined or super-combined since Gretchen Fraser got silver at the 1948 St. Moritz Games.
Mancuso pumped her fists, dropped to her back and pedaled with her skis in the air. It was like a child throwing a tantrum, only this was pure joy, bringing smiles and laughs from her foes nearby. Mancuso then went over to a camera and said, “Hey everybody!” and blew a kiss.
Anja Paerson of Sweden took the bronze for her sixth Olympic medal, just 24 hours after limping away from an ugly crash in the downhill race.
Attention everyone watching curling and thinking, “I can do that!” The U.S. team might need you.
Americans remained 0-for-Vancouver following a 7-6 loss by the men to Denmark. At 0-4, they are on the brink of elimination; they must win their remaining five matches to get to the semifinals.
“Something magical would have to happen for us to make the medal round,” U.S. lead John Benton said.
The U.S. squad will take a 2-0 record into their clash with Canada on Sunday.
Phil Kessel and Chris Drury scored first-period goals to get the Americans going toward a 6-1 win over Norway. The defense was so good that goaltender Ryan Miller needed to make only 10 saves.
Phelps sat four rows above center ice and tried to stay out of the spotlight. He wore a gray painters cap that was pulled down, a gray scarf tucked near his chin and he remained in his seat, applauding politely, while other around him roared following a U.S. goal. He left with 5½ minutes remaining, just as the US scored to make it 4-1.
HOCKEY & THE OLYMPICS
The head of the International Ice Hockey Federation is defending the lack of depth in the women’s field and practically begging NHL commissioner Gary Bettman to let pros play in the 2014 Winter Olympics.
“We need you, Gary,” IIHF president Rene Fasel said.
NHL owners don’t like stopping their sport for two weeks so players can join their national teams and the league may not get much visibility in 2014 because the games will be in Sochi, Russia, with the time difference meaning hurting TV viewership.
As for the imbalance in the women’s field, Fasel called the teams from Canada and the United States “on another planet” and urged the rest of the world to catch up.
Christine Nesbitt earned Canada’s first speedskating gold, winning the 1,000 meters by a mere two-hundredths of a second.
Jennifer Rodriguez was the top American, finishing seventh.
How do you “sweep” in Norwegian?
Emil Hegle Svendsen won the men’s 20-kilometer individual event and Tora Berger dominated from start to finish in the women’s 15-kilometer individual race.
Lanny Barnes was 23rd in the women’s event, the best by an American since 1994.
In the men’s race, American Jeremy Teela was a late scratch after waking up with sinus problems. He was the top American in the 10k, finishing ninth.
Clark, the 2002 gold medalist, finished second in qualifying, behind Australian Torah Bright.
Defending Olympic champion Hannah Teter and silver medalist Gretchen Bleiler also advanced, along with Spain’s Queralt Castellet and China’s Sun Zhifeng.
Injured Americans Daron Rahlves and Casey Puckett say they’re healthy enough to compete on Sunday.
Rahlves said he is about “88 percent” after dislocating his right hip last month in a wreck at the Winter X Games.
Puckett dislocated his shoulder during a race last month, then landed awkwardly during a run last month, which caused further damage. He says his shoulder still hurts at times, but he’s making progress, particularly in his ability to start races.
The Olympics is a pretty fascinating talent contest, too.
A night after Fox’s “American Idol” drew nearly 4 million more viewers than NBC’s broadcast from Vancouver, the athletes outdrew the entertainers by a whopping 11.7 million in the hour the two overlapped Wednesday night.
Gee, ya think those gold medals won by Lindsey Vonn, Shani Davis and Shaun White helped?
It was the first time in six years that “Idol” was topped by a program in its time slot.
They’re not happy in Moscow.
With only a single medal of each color won by Russians going into Thursday’s events, some members of the nation’s parliament are calling for their top sports leaders to resign.
The paltry haul thus far has brought “bitterness and insult,” according to a statement by one government official.
Just playing politics? Perhaps. But remember that the 2014 Winter Olympics are in Sochi, Russia, so there’s more than the usual patriotic pride on the line.
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