Olympic Roundup: USA stars shine

Feb. 17, 2010 at 11:42 PM
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VANCOUVER, British Columbia, Feb. 17 (UPI) -- Lindsey Vonn, Shani Davis and Shaun White came into the Olympics as Americans most likely to succeed and they did so in gold medal fashion Wednesday.

One of them wildly raced down a rock-hard mountain slope that caused plenty of heartbreak, another powered his way around an oval of ice and the other hurtled into the evening air while doing a series of almost unimaginable twists and turns.

In the end, they shared the perfect Olympic experience that also put the United States on top in the race for medals at the Vancouver Games.

Vonn, the No. 1 female skier in the world, captured the downhill race as she had been favored to do. Despite a bruised shin and a dangerous course that seven competitors could not finish, Vonn won by a half second over fellow-American Julie Mancuso.

"I dreamed about what this would feel like, but it is much better in real life," said Vonn, the first American woman to win the Olympic downhill.

Davis, for the second straight Olympics, captured the 1,000-meter speed skating race. He is the only man ever to win two straight gold medals over that distance.

White also won his second consecutive snowboarding halfpipe gold, soaring to success with his large crop of red hair poking out from beneath his cap.

The three gold medals won by the Americans Wednesday were one more than the entire United States team could manage during the Olympics the last time they were held in Canada -- 1988 in Calgary.

The United States has five gold medals, two more than any other country, and 14 overall, four more than Germany.

There were six American medals in all Wednesday -- including a bronze from Chad Hedrick in the speed skating race and a bronze from Steve Lago in snowboarding.

As always, there were plenty of stories around the Olympic venues.

While preparing for the always-dramatic cross-country sprint event, World Cup leader Petra Majdic of Slovenia tumbled off the course and into a ravine. She hit a rock and was in such pain she assumed she had broken a bone.

After a trip to the hospital for X-rays, Majdic was cleared to ski and she made it through qualifying, the quarterfinals and semifinals. After falling behind in the finals, she put on a final surge, won a bronze medal and collapsed.

Majdic was carried from the course, leaving winner Marit Bjoergen of Norway to celebrate the fourth medal of her Olympic career.

Russians Nikita Kriukov and Alexander Panzhinskiy finished 1-2 in the men's sprint, where a photo of the finish was needed to determine the winner.

In addition to White and Davis, two other athletes won their event for the second straight Olympics. Brothers Andreas and Wolfgang Linger repeated as doubles luge champions and superstar short-track skater Wang Meng of China took home her second straight gold in the women's 500.

Vonn will have a chance for another medal Thursday in the women's combined, where the competitors ski one downhill run and two slalom runs. The United States women will also try to finish out an unbeaten run in hockey group play.

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