Thursday, February 17, 2011

February 17, 2010: Golden girl

WHISTLER, B.C. - Lindsey Vonn was identified early on as the poster girl for the 2010 U.S. Olympic team. The combination of her good looks and her fearless racing style made her the featured athlete leading up to the games, appearing on television and in magazine spreads.

It helped that she had been successful, entering the Olymipcs with three straight World Cup championships. Though she had never been on an Olympic medal podium going into the 2010 games, she was widely expected to end that drought.

She got more attention just before the games by revealing that she had a bruised shin, which would make it difficult for her to compete. For her critics, this revelation was viewed as the beginnings of an excuse. Many felt that Vonn was starting to get nervous about the high expectations placed on her and was fabricating or exaggerating her injury in case she failed to live up to those lofty goals.

Regardless of the seriousness of her injury, the unseasonably warm weather in Vancouver gave Vonn extra time to heal and prepare, and she competed in her first event, the downhill, on February 17. Finally able to ski after months of anticipation, Vonn delivered, winning the gold over teammate Julia Mancuso by .56 seconds. While the win gave Vonn her first Olympic medal of any color, it also gave her the first downhill gold medal ever won by an American woman.

With the gold medal firmly in hand, Vonn could relax. In her mind, winning one gold justified the expectations on her, and she could ski more freely in the remaining events. This attitude may have cost her, as she crashed out in three of the four remaining events, claiming bronze in super-G. Despite winning medals in only two of the five events she entered, Vonn was happy with her Olympics, and her success seemed to justify the pre-Olympics attention she received.

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