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.

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