Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics — Day six review

By Paul Hurst
Lindsey Vonn

Lindsey Vonn (Photo: Gerwig Loffelholz)

Whistler became ‘Vonncouver’ yesterday as Lindsey Vonn won gold in the Ladies’ Downhill.

The 25-year-old American crushed the competition at Whistler Creekside, completing the course in a time of 1:44:19 — over half a second quicker than her compatriot Julia Mancuso in second. The race was punctuated with a number of big crashes, most notably Sweden’s Anja Paerson, who flew over 60m off the final jump, named ‘Hot Air’, but suffered a terrible landing.

Paerson may still be able to compete in the Super-Combined today. Amazingly, despite the magnitude of the crash, she escaped with no broken bones.

Vonn herself is no stranger to injuries; she damaged her shin in a crash in practice just two weeks ago which looked like it may end her Olympic dream for another four years.

Fighting through the pain, she looked fearless as she hurtled down the course. That was in contrast to some of her main challengers, who looked to be somewhat in awe of the fast course. No-one looked even close to matching her time, giving Vonn the first of what could be a haul of gold medals, with her scheduled to compete in four more events at Whistler.

Vonn wasn’t the only American to taste gold on day six. Boarding phenom Shaun White won gold for the second time in four years in the Men’s Snowboard Half Pipe following his victory in Torino.

White easily qualified for the final, and had locked up the gold medal with his first run in the final, scoring 46.8. His second run was little more than a victory lap, and the freedom of knowing he could not lose allowed him to put on a real show for the Cypress Mountain crowd.

Despite a slight stumble as he landed his final jump, White recorded an incredible 48.4 score, capping the run with his signature move, dubbed the ‘Tomahawk’. He celebrated with his team-mate Scott Lago, who picked up the bronze.

Switzerland’s Iouri Podladtchikov was the unlucky loser, looking set for a bronze medal until Peetu Piiroinen of Finland pulled out all the stops on his second run, to jump from fifth position to second, pushing ‘I-Pod’ out of the medal positions. The two Japanese athletes Kokubo and Aono also gave the crowd fantastic entertainment, but mistakes cost both of them a chance at the podium – although the scoring from the judges seemed to be very harsh at times.

The United States picked up their fifth and sixth medals of the day with gold and bronze in the Men’s 1000m Speed Skating. Champion Shani Davis, and Chad Hedrick sandwiched Korean Mo Tae-Bum who won silver, to add to his gold in the 500m.

Day 6 saw Russia, Austria and Norway all pick up their first gold of the Games. Russia picked up gold and silver in the Cross Country Men’s Individual Sprint in a thrilling finish – a photo needed to confirm that Nikita Kriukov had pipped team-mate Alexander Panzhinskiy to the line.

In the Ladies’ equivalent, Norway’s Marit Bjoergen won by a comparatively comfortable margin of 1.1 seconds from Poland’s Justyna Kowalczyk. Amazingly, Slovenia’s Petra Majdic amazingly won the bronze, despite suffering serious injury to her ribs after falling three metres down a bank and hitting a tree during training, just hours before the race.

In obvious agony throughout the race, she had to be carried away from the finish, after what was undoubtedly the gutsiest performance of this year’s Games so far.

Austria took gold in the Luge Doubles. Brothers Andreas and Wolfgang Linger repeated their success from Torino, ahead of another team of brothers – Latvia’s Andris and Juris Sics. Germany finished with the bronze, capping a fantastic Luge programme for the German team, claiming five of the nine medals awarded in the discipline.

On Day Seven, Lindsey Vonn will be aiming for her second gold in two days as she competes in the Super Combined Slalom. Back in the city, men’s and women’s Curling will be going on throughout the day. Britain’s men have a morning match-up against Switzerland, followed by a tie with Denmark in the evening session.

Up on Cypress, the Ladies’ Snowboard Half Pipe takes place, with qualification getting underway at 12.30pm (8.30pm UK). After the men’s event where Shaun White was almost a shoe-in for the victory, the ladies’ event promises real excitement, with a number of competitors with a real chance at the gold medal.

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