Wednesday Afternoon Olympic Update

Wednesday, February 17, 2010 - 5:31pm

VANCOUVER, British Columbia (AP) - Lindsey Vonn crossed the
finish line, saw her time, then yelled and fell backward onto the

Joy? Relief? Pain?

All the emotions that come with being a gold-medal winner.

Despite a bruise on her right shin that made it painful to even
wear a ski boot, Vonn dominated a crash-marred downhill race to win
the first of her five events at the Vancouver Olympics.

"I gave up everything for this," she said. "It means
everything to me. ... I dreamed about what this would feel like,
but it is much better in real life."

Teammate and childhood rival Julia Mancuso was a surprising
second, giving Americans the top two medals in an Alpine race for
the first time in 26 years, and vaulting the United States back
atop the medals chart.

U.S. athletes have combined to win 10 medals, one more than
Germany. With three golds, the Americans are back in a tie for the

Vonn's victory put the United States off to a great start in
what could be a big day for the delegation.

Shaun White and Shani Davis defend their Olympic tiles, White in
halfpipe and Davis in 1,000-meter speedskating. Short-track
speedskater Apolo Anton Ohno also will be in action for the first
time since matching Bonnie Blair for the most medals won by a U.S.
Winter Olympian, although he will only be competing in preliminary

Since getting hurt in practice two weeks ago, Vonn spent more
time with Austrian curd cheese smeared on her shin than being on
the slopes. Several weather delays bought her time and kept her
competition from getting too comfortable on this course.

She kicked out of the gate strong, building a quick lead and
building on it. Just when it seemed she might lose control, she
regained her form and kept charging toward the finish. A small bump
just before the finish cost her a few ticks, but she still wound up
winning by 0.56 seconds.

"I fought the whole way down," she said. "It wasn't a perfect
run. I attacked, and I made it down."

Maria Riesch of Germany, Vonn's best friend and usual rival of
late, finished eighth.

The course was tough, as evidenced by all the crashes. Swedish
standout Anja Paerson went down hard, and another competitor had to
be airlifted out. Yet another crashed across the finish line and
disappeared under a logo of a skier; in trying to get up, she stuck
out one ski, making for a bizarre image.

The only times Americans took gold and silver in an Alpine race
both happened at the 1984 Sarajevo Games, with brothers Phil and
Steve Mahre going 1-2 in the slalom and Debbie Armstrong and
Christin Cooper doing so in giant slalom.

Vonn will be favored in two more races. It remains to be seen
how much this event took out of her - or if it's the start of a
Phelps-like domination.

"I have what I want, and I'll just keep fighting every day,"
she said. "It's definitely a huge relief that I finally did it."

The U.S. women fell to 0-2, losing to Germany when skip Debbie
McCormick's squad couldn't make up a two-point deficit in the final

The men also are 0-2 going into a match against Switzerland.

Want an unobstructed picture of the Olympic cauldron? Not a
problem any more.

Organizers of the Vancouver Games opened a viewing ramp
Wednesday to bring visitors closer to the Olympic cauldron. A
chain-link fence around the flame also was moved closer, with a
6-inch-wide strip cut into it for people taking pictures from
ground level.

Olympic organizers initially drew criticism for making the flame
inaccessible to the public. It was one of a series of glitches that
have marred the opening days of the Winter Games.

The body of the Georgian luger killed during a practice run was
flown Wednesday to his hometown, where his grief-stricken mother
threw herself on his coffin and cried: "Why have I survived you?"

Nodar Kumaritashvili's body arrived in a flag-draped coffin at
the Georgian capital's airport before dawn, met by relatives and
onlookers. The 21-year-old is to be buried Saturday at a churchyard
in Bakuriani, a village of about 1,500 that is located in one of
Georgia's most popular winter sports regions.

The luger's mother, Dodo Kharazishvili, became so upset she had
to be held up by relatives. An ambulance team was called to help
her. The casket was taken to the family home, located on a street
that local authorities have renamed in the athlete's honor.
Hundreds of mourners gathered there, and many struggled to contain
their own tears.

Among the mourners was Levan Gureshidze, a fellow Olympic luger
who grew up and trained with Kumaritashvili but withdrew from the
games after his friend's death. He said he could not bear to
compete after the accident that took his teammate's life.

"How could I take part in competition after that?" he said,
tears filling his eyes.

Kumaritashvili died during a training run Friday when he lost
control of his sled and slammed into a trackside steel pole at
nearly 90 mph.



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