Golden Day For USA

Wednesday Night Olympic Update

Wednesday, February 17, 2010 - 11:39pm

By RACHEL COHEN
AP Sports Writer

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

Joy? Relief? Pain?

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

Despite a bruised right shin that made it painful to even wear a
ski boot, Vonn dominated a crash-marred downhill to win the first
of her five events at the Vancouver Olympics. (Or, as the hats seen
in the crowd read: the Vonn-couver 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 starting a big day for the U.S.

Later, Shani Davis added a gold in 1,000-meter speedskating, and
Shaun White defended his title in the halfpipe. At the end of the
day, the U.S. led all countries with five gold medals and 14
overall.

Short-track speedskater Apolo Anton Ohno also had a good night,
easily advancing through preliminaries of the men's 1,000 and
helping the United States move on to the 5,000 relay final. Both
finals are Saturday, when Ohno can add to his cache of six Olympic
medals and become the most decorated U.S. Winter Olympian.
---
WOMEN'S DOWNHILL

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."
---
SPEEDSKATING

Davis didn't come close to a medal in his first two events at
these Olympics, but he came through in the 1,000, an event in which
he holds the world record. With an impressive final kick, he edged
South Korea's Mo Tae-bum, who won the 500 and whose early pace
Davis struggled to match.

Davis even shared the podium with Chad Hedrick again after the
other American hopeful took the bronze. Davis and Hedrick had a
nasty feud at the 2006 Turin Games, but both appeared in good
spirits after Wednesday's race. Davis and Hedrick finished second
and third in the 1,500 in Turin.

"When you're a world champion or an Olympic champion, you get
this little thing on your back called a target," said Davis, the
first male skater to win this event a second time at the Winter
Games. "To go out there and win the 1,000 meters twice is truly
amazing."
---
SNOWBOARDING

Shaun White's final run was a formality. At times, his entire
event seemed like one.

White defended his Olympic title in the men's halfpipe,
defeating Finland's Peetu Piiroinen. White secured the win on his
first run without trying his signature trick, the Double McTwist
1260, then did it on his second lap having already clinched the
gold.

American Scotty Lago took bronze to give the United States
multiple podiums in three straight Olympics. The American men and
women have taken 12 of the 21 halfpipe medals awarded since the
sport came to the Olympics in 1998.
---
SHORT TRACK

Ohno easily advanced through the preliminaries of the 1,000,
staying on course to surpass Bonnie Blair as the most decorated
U.S. Winter Olympian.

Ohno, who won his sixth Olympic medal in the 1,500 Saturday, was
third most of the way. Then, in the closing laps, he moved up to
second before using a smooth inside move to take the lead over
China's Liang Wenhao.

From there, Ohno cruised to the finish line well ahead of the
others to advance to the semifinals later Wednesday.

Ohno also joined J.R. Celski, Simon Cho and Travis Jayner in
qualifying for the 5,000 relay final on Saturday.

Wang Meng of China easily won her second consecutive gold medal
in the women's 500 meters. She led all the way after surviving a
restart and a false start in the four-woman final.

Wang cruised home well ahead of Canada's Marianne St-Gelais, who
took silver. Arianna Fontana of Italy earned the bronze.
---
MEN'S HOCKEY

With an assist on Finland's opening goal in a 5-1 victory over
Belarus, Teemu Selanne matched the record for most career points in
the Olympics.

Selanne has 20 goals and 16 assists in five Olympics. Also with
36: Valeri Kharlamov of Russia, Vlastimil Bubnik of the former
Czechoslovakia and Harry Watson of Canada.

There were initial concerns Selanne would not be able to play
because of surgery last month for a broken jaw. He returned Feb. 1
and played seven games for Anaheim.

Defending champion Sweden shook off a slow start as Mattias
Ohlund and Loui Eriksson scored in the second period to help beat
Germany 2-0.

The Swedes did not have a shot on net until midway through the
scoreless first period in their Vancouver Games opener.
---
WOMEN'S HOCKEY

So much for Canada's first real test.

Meghan Agosta had three goals and two assists, Hayley
Wickenheiser became the leading goal-scorer in Olympic history, and
Canada routed the toughest opponent in its preliminary-round group,
beating Sweden 13-1.

Wickenheiser got her 16th Olympic goal among her five points as
the Canadians cruised into the semifinals with three victories by a
combined 41-2.
---
CROSS-COUNTRY

A milelong sprint came down to a few inches, with Russia's
Nikita Kriukov getting the front of his ski across the finish line
just ahead of countryman Alexander Panzhinskiy in the men's
individual classic cross-country sprint race. A photo finish was
needed to determine the winner.

In the women's individual sprint, Norway's Marit Bjoergen pulled
away at the end for her first gold medal after winning two silvers
at previous Olympics and a bronze in the 10K race Monday.

Pre-race favorite Petra Majdic of Slovenia hurt her ribs in a
training crash early Wednesday, but managed to salvage a bronze.
She collapsed immediately after crossing the finish line.
---
LUGE

Austrian brothers Andreas and Wolfgang Linger won their second
straight gold medal in doubles luge.

The Lingers completed their two runs in 1 minute, 22.705
seconds. Andris and Juris Sics of Latvia finished in 1:22.969 and
won silver, and Germany's Patric Leitner and Alexander Resch took
bronze with a time of 1:23.404.

It was just the second time a doubles team won in consecutive
Olympics. Germany's Hans Rinn and Norbert Hahn did it in 1976 and
1980.
---
CURLING

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
end.

The men fell to 0-3 with a 7-6 loss to Switzerland.
---
OLYMPIC CAULDRON

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.
---
DEFENDING THE GAMES

The head of the Vancouver Olympics isn't so fond of talk about
these being the Glitch Games.

Despite mechanical failures ranging from the cauldron at the
opening ceremony to an ice-resurfacing machine, ticket
cancellations, weather woes and more, VANOC CEO John Furlong says
the problems are being fixed and the games are inspiring euphoria
across the country.

He also acknowledged, "When we make mistakes, we have to fix
them," such as opening access to the cauldron.
---
LUGER BURIED

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 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
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.
---
TV RATINGS

The gold for U.S. TV viewership on Tuesday night went to
"American Idol."

Fox's talent show was watched by 23.6 million viewers, far ahead
of the 19.7 million viewers for the Olympics coverage.

Once "Idol" ended, Olympic viewership grew to 20.3 million.

Just NBC's luck, Tuesday was the first day of the Vancouver
Olympics that an American did not win a medal.

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