Seeking her second gold medal in as many days, Lindsey Vonn led the super-combined after the downhill portion, then failed to slip a ski inside a gate during her slalom run and wound up tumbling down the snow.
A bruised right shin that was "killing me" wasn’t to blame. She just made a common mistake trying to catch up to her best friend Maria Riesch of Germany and teammate Julia Mancuso.
"I was disappointed, but I went down fighting," Vonn said. "I had to give it everything I had."
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Mancuso became the first American woman to win a medal in women’s combined or super-combined since Gretchen Fraser got silver at the 1948 St. Moritz Games. She also became the first U.S. woman with three Olympic medals in Alpine skiing, matching Bode Miller for the most Alpine medals by an American. On a day when Vonn crashed and Canada‘s pride-and-joy hockey team nearly went down, Evan Lysacek stood up strong.
In the biggest event of his life, Lysacek – the reigning world champion in men’s figure skating – didn’t try the most daring routine, but he hit nearly every move he picked. He knew it, too, repeatedly screaming "Yes!" as his music faded.
"It was definitely my best, and that’s what I came here to do," Lysacek said.
He earned the highest score of his career and it held up for the gold medal, topping defending champ Evgeni Plushenko and providing the United States with its first champion in this event since Brian Boitano in 1988. He also gave his coach, the widely respected Frank Carroll, his first gold medalist.
Lysacek’s victory let the United States close Thursday still way ahead in the medals races. Through 34 events, Americans have claimed six golds and 17 overall. Germany is second in both categories, with four and 11.
The biggest drama that played out Tuesday involved Canada‘s men’s hockey team.
A squad of NHL greats supposed to win gold in a sport that means about as much to Canadians as football, baseball and basketball combined mean to Americans let a two-goal lead dissolve into a tie with Switzerland. It stayed that way after regulation, after overtime and after three rounds of a shootout. Then Sidney Crosby scored and the entire host country exhaled.
A loss would’ve been more humiliating than damaging to Canada‘s chances of winning the Olympic tournament. Still, this way-too-close of a call – with an own goal clinking in off the skate of Patrick Marleau and goaltender Martin Brodeur not even coming close to stopping a shot he saw the entire way – is sure to have the country buzzing and the rest of the teams wondering whether the pressure is getting to the guys with maple leafs on their jerseys.
Other noteworthy events Thursday:
– Two gold medals for women named Tora/Torah: Tora Berger’s victory was part of a sweep of biathlon events by Norwegians. Hers also gave Norway the nifty milestone of being first nation with 100 Winter Olympics gold medals. Torah Bright became the 2010 champ in women’s halfpipe by beating the last two gold medalists, both Americans – ’06 champ Hannah Teter (silver) and ’02 champ Kelly Clark (bronze).
– The U.S. men’s and women’s hockey teams remained undefeated, with Summer Olympics golden boy Michael Phelps cheering the guys from the stands.
– The U.S. men’s and women’s curling squads remained winless.
The U.S. squad will take a 2-0 record into its clash with Canada on Sunday. That’s significant because the Americans were 1-4-1 at the Turin Games. The latest victory was 6-1 over Norway, with Phil Kessel and Chris Drury getting the club going with first-period goals. The defense was so good that goaltender Ryan Miller needed to make only 10 saves, with Phelps sitting four rows above center ice and trying to stay out of the spotlight.
Canada beat Norway 8-0, yet any method of comparison was rendered moot by what happened between the Canadians and the Swiss.
Canada took a 2-0 lead early in the second period against a club with only two NHL players and a mostly new, younger collection of Canadians seemed poised to avenge a 2-0 upset loss to Switzerland in 2006 that ranks among the greatest in Olympic history. It was even the 4-year anniversary.
They almost blew it. Victory wasn’t secured until Crosby put a wrist shot past Jonas Hiller on his second attempt of the shootout, then Brodeur stopped a shot by Martin Pluss.
Stunning news from the U.S. match – Jenny Potter didn’t have a third straight hat trick. Heck, she didn’t have a single point.
The Americans still cruised by Finland 6-0, getting a goal and two assists from captain Natalie Darwitz to cap an undefeated run through the preliminary round.
"We’ve got one task in sight, and we think we are in pretty good position going forward," U.S. defenseman Caitlin Cahow said.
HOCKEY & THE OLYMPICS
The head of the International Ice Hockey Federation is defending the lack of depth in the women’s field and practically begging NHL commissioner Gary Bettman to let pros play in the 2014 Winter Olympics.
"For our game, our fans, Gary, we need you, 100 percent," IIHF president Rene Fasel said at a news conference Bettman attended.
As for the imbalance in the women’s field, Fasel called the teams from Canada and the United States "on another planet" and urged the rest of the world to catch up.
After all sorts of flying and falling, Bright showed that someone could tame this course, stringing together five technically superior jumps for just the fourth gold medal ever won by an Aussie at the Winter Olympics – enough to earn her a phone call from Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd.
Of course, it all came after a wipeout during her first run.
With two of four skeleton runs in the books, the leader is Britain’s Amy Williams, who hasn’t even won a medal on the World Cup circuit this season.
"The sport is so tight between each person that anything can happen," she said.
All three medalists from 2006 are in the field, with Canada‘s gold-medal favorite Mellisa Hollingsworth in third, just nine-hundredths of a second behind.
American Noelle Pikus-Pace is fifth.
A Japanese slider was disqualified because her skeleton lacked a mandatory sticker.
The slick track at the Whistler Sliding Center is causing problems again.
At least 11 two-man bobsleds have spilled sideways in the first two days of training. This season’s World Cup two-man overall champion from Switzerland and an Australian were held out of practice Thursday following crashes Wednesday night.
Practice wrecks happen in bobsledding. But when they happen within a week of a luger dying in a training accident that causes things like Thursday’s decision to add extra training runs.
Attention everyone watching curling and thinking, "I can do that."
The U.S. teams might need you.
Americans remained 0-for-Vancouver following losses by the men and women, both to Denmark by the score of 7-6.
At 0-4, the men are on the brink of elimination; they must win their remaining five matches to get to the semifinals.
"Something magical would have to happen for us to make the medal round," U.S. lead John Benton said.
The women are 0-3.
Canada‘s Christine Nesbitt figures she’s had better 1,000-meter skates. But never one more important.
And few that were any closer. She won by two-hundredths of a second.
Jennifer Rodriguez was the top American, finishing seventh.
Meanwhile, five-time gold medalist Claudia Pechstein of Germany won’t be competing here after the top court in international sports rejected her appeal of a suspension for showing abnormal blood levels.
Emil Hegle Svendsen won the men’s 20-kilometer individual event, denying his mentor, Ole Einar Bjoerndalen, his sixth Olympic gold. With a silver, he became the first Olympic biathlete to medal in the same event in three straight Winter Games.
American Jeremy Teela was a late scratch after waking up with sinus problems. Tim Burke was the top American at 45th.
Berger dominated from start to finish in the women’s 15-kilometer individual race, becoming the first Norwegian woman to win an Olympic race. Lanny Barnes was 23rd, best by an American since 1994.
Injured Americans Daron Rahlves (dislocated right hip) and Casey Puckett (dislocated shoulder) say they’re healthy enough to compete on Sunday.
"When you’re motivated to get healthy, it’s really impressive, when you do everything you can, how quickly you can come back," Puckett said.
Could it be – ski-jumping subterfuge?
The Austrians are griping that Switzerland‘s Simon Ammann – who won the normal hill event – has improper bindings and wants him to use different ones for the large hill competition.
The Austrians aren’t challenging his win, but will file a protest if he trots them out Saturday. The head of the Swiss team says there won’t be a change and predicts that a protest would be rejected.