WHISTLER, British Columbia, Feb. 17 (UPI) -- Lindsey Vonn sped down an icy, dangerous slope Wednesday to become the first American woman to win an Olympic downhill gold medal.
Vonn, by far the best female downhill skier in the world over the past three years, was concerned only a week ago that she would not be able to compete in the Vancouver Games because of a deep shin bruise.
When it came time for the most important race of her career, however, nothing could stop her.
Vonn defeated fellow American Julie Mancuso by a half second and Austria's Elisabeth Goergl by almost a second and a half -- a huge margin in the world of downhill skiing.
It was the first 1-2 American finish in an Olympic alpine event in 26 years and only the third ever.
The women's downhill was the first alpine event to go off as scheduled at these Olympics. The men's downhill was delayed for two days by poor weather and bad course conditions. Both the men's and women's alpine combined have been pushed back from their original starting dates.
Even though the women's downhill was run on the day it was scheduled, the course was not at its best. The icy, bumpy conditions made for a treacherous trip down Whistler Mountain.
Sweden's Anja Paerson, third in the overall World Cup standings, appeared headed for a silver medal when she catapulted off the final jump and took a hard fall.
Dominique Gisin of Switzerland also fell heavily.
Vonn, who added the Olympic title to five downhill crowns won in six tries on the World Cup circuit this season, covered the course in 1:44.19.
She will also be the favorite in the super-giant slalom and will be among the challengers as well in the combined event, which is scheduled for Thursday.