Lindsey Vonnderful dominating downhill
Canada struggles on marquee day for American fans
VANCOUVER — Whether medical issue or mind game, the shin didn’t much matter: in the end, Lindsey was Vonnderful.
The popular U.S. skiing star’s injured leg, billed at the start of the Games as a potential racekiller, didn’t seem to be a factor Wednesday as Vonn blazed to a gold medal during a bruising, crash-filled women’s downhill.
American teammate Julia Mancuso took silver and Austria’s Elisabeth Goergl the bronze after navigating a perilous Whistler course that sent more than a few racers careening and cartwheeling, skis akimbo, into the netting.
Britt Janyk of Whistler was the top Canadian in sixth. Emily Brydon, 29, of Fernie, B.C., finished 16th and Shona Rubens, 23, of Canmore, Alta., was 21st. None of the six racers who crashed out of the race — most in spectacular, stomach-churning fashion — were Canadian.
Swedish star Anja Paerson was sent to hospital after a horrific somersault that left her in a heap near the finish area. Many crashes came after a massive jump near the bottom, nicknamed “Hot Air,” which catapulted several competitors out of contention.
“ We will try to ease things down a little bit” before Sunday’s super-combined race, said Atle Skaardal, the women’s race director for the International Ski Federation.
“ The running time is quite long ... with a lot of terrain in there. It was a bit of a challenge from start to finish.”
Canada had its share of struggles on Wednesday, but it proved a marquee day for American fans.
In addition to Vonn’s goldmedal performance, U.S. speedskating hero Shani Davis churned his way around the Richmond Olympic Oval to claim top spot in the men’s 1,000 metres, edging out silver medallist Mo Tae-Bum of South Korea and American Chad Hendrick.
Denny Morrison, 24, of Fort St. John. B.C., was touted as Canada’s best medal hope in the 1,000, but managed only a 13thplace finish. Teammate Jeremy Wotherspoon of Red Deer, Alta., skating in his last Olympics, was right behind in 14th.
That left Canada’s medal hopes for the day hanging on two speedskating contenders in the women’s 500-metre final, set to go later Wednesday: Edmonton’s Jessica Gregg and Marianne StGelais of St-Felicien, Que.
At Cypress Mountain, where Mother Nature finally blessed the freestyle venues with temperatures cold enough to make snow, the half-pipe came alive as U.S. rock-star snowboarder Shaun White took to the skies and qualified easily for the men’s finals.
While White was shredding, however, his Canadian counterparts were getting shredded.
Justin Lamoureux of Ottawa, 33, was the only one to make it to the semifinals; Brad Martin, 23, of Ancaster, Ont., and 21-year-old Jeff Batchelor of Oakville, Ont., both failed to advance.
At times, it seemed the Americans were everywhere. Political satirist Stephen Colbert, who has been poking fun at Canada for months on his TV show “ The Colbert Report,” showed up in Vancouver to extend an olive branch to his Canadian hosts, whom he described as “ friendly and very easy to pander to.”
Indeed, when Davis crossed the finish line to claim gold at the oval, Colbert — serving, tongue firmly planted in cheek, as an “assistant sports psychologist” to the U.S. speedskaters — erupted with joy from his rinkside seat.
Wednesday wasn’t all about the Americans, however.
Canada’s women’s hockey team handed their Swedish rivals a 13-1 loss in front of an appreciative red-and-white crowd, while on the curling ice, Cheryl Bernard went two for two by upending Japan’s Moe Meguro 76 in the second women’s curling draw.
Bernard trailed 6-5 heading into the 10th end, but was able to score two with a takeout from her hammer, much to the delight of a boisterous hometown crowd.
The day wasn’t entirely glitchfree. At the cross-country course outside Whistler, Slovenian star Petra Majdic bruised her ribs when she toppled over a threemetre embankment after sliding out of a slippery and now controversial 180-degree corner.
Other Olympic controversies persisted as well.
Workers spent the night working on a rooftop viewing platform to give the public a better look at the Olympic cauldron, which is located behind a controversial chain-link fence that’s been moved closer to afford spectators a better from the street.
And a barricade collapsed Tuesday night at a free concert, leaving 19 people injured. Nine of them were taken to hospital, one with a suspected broken leg.
From alpine weather aggravations to cancelled tickets to the cauldron controversy, organizers have been plagued by everything from unco-operative snow conditions on the mountains to iceresurfacing machines that do more damage than good.