A mistake behind her, Vonn hopes shin can hold out

Lindsey Vonn made no excuses.

She didn’t blame the bruised shin that’s caused such a fuss and

so much fascination.

This was a common mistake.

Vonn hooked a gate in the slalom portion of the super-combined

with her right ski tip Thursday, sending her crashing to the snow

along with her chance of a second Olympic gold medal in as many

days.

“That happens in ski racing all the time,” she said.

This time it happened here, at the Olympics. But it was still

just one mistake, and there’s still plenty of Olympics left – shin

willing, of course.

Vonn turned in the fastest time during the downhill portion of

the super-combined, another quick jaunt over a bumpy course that’s

been unforgiving. Then she opened the door to her rivals with a

tumble in the slalom.

Germany’s Maria Riesch – Vonn’s closest friend – grabbed the

gold and American Julia Mancuso won her second silver of the

Olympics, finishing 0.94 seconds behind Riesch. Anja Paerson of

Sweden captured the bronze.

Vonn could have played it conservative, likely earning a medal

with a nice, safe slalom run.

But she didn’t come here to play it safe.

“I definitely was risking – risking a lot in the slalom,” she

said. “I was trying to win a race today.”

She will have more chances to do that in the days to come. Her

shin is sore, but it’s holding up. And the next race is the

super-G, one of her specialties. She’s already wrapped up the World

Cup super-G crown with two events left on the schedule, and she’s

hoping a day off Friday will be enough rest to carry her

through.

“I don’t know if it will be,” Vonn said. “Definitely going to

do as much therapy as humanly possible and hope I can be standing

in the start of the super-G confident and not in so much

pain.”

Vonn injured the shin in a slalom training run during

pre-Olympics practice in Austria on Feb. 2. Although the injury

didn’t have a direct bearing on her wipeout, it did limit her

training for the slalom.

Her schedule eases up if she can get through the super-G. After

that is a three-day break before the giant slalom on Wednesday,

then another day off before the slalom. So far, her plans to race

all five Alpine events haven’t changed.

“Nothing is for sure, one way or another. Right now the

schedule is to do everything, and I anticipate she will do

everything,” said Thomas Vonn, who serves as a coach and adviser

to his wife. “But anything can change in 10 minutes.”

Vonn may have been promoted as the headline act of these

Olympics, but her crash opened the door for teammate Mancuso to

steal the show.

After a dynamic run in the downhill portion, Mancuso was

prepared for a bronze in the super-combined but got silver when

Vonn fell. It was her second silver in two days and third career

Olympic medal, tying Bode Miller for most ever by an American

Alpine skier.

It also was the first U.S. medal in women’s Olympic combined or

super-combined since Gretchen Fraser’s silver at the 1948 St.

Moritz Games, and made Mancuso the fifth American woman to win two

Alpine medals in the same Olympics.

“She’s coming in here as an underdog,” Vonn said. “No one’s

really expecting her to do anything, and I think that helps. When

you don’t have any pressure, it helps to ski aggressively.”

And like Vonn, Mancuso isn’t done. The 25-year-old skier from

Squaw Valley, Calif., still has arguably her best event to come,

the giant slalom, which she won in Turin four years ago.

This has been a whirlwind few days for Mancuso. An American on

the podium in both races was hardly a surprise; that it turned out

to be Mancuso – not Vonn – was a little shocking.

“She’s always been a gamer,” said Bill Marolt, the CEO of the

U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association.

Slalom isn’t Mancuso’s strongest suit, but for one day she

shined as brightly as her trademark silver tiara.

“Found my slalom somewhere,” Mancuso said, laughing.

“I don’t know where that slalom came from,” U.S. women’s coach

Jim Tracy said. “It was there a few years back, but it’s been in

hiding. She certainly picked a good day to bring it back out.”