Lindsey Vonn erased the demons of Turin by obliterating the rest of the field to capture the Olympic women’s downhill title.
Vonn had battled a painful shin injury in the build-up to the Games amid fears her hopes of gold could be dashed for a second consecutive Olympics following a training run crash four years ago.
But Vonn blasted down the course in one minute 44.19 seconds, ahead of American team-mate Julia Mancuso who took silver in 1:44.75. Austria’s Elisabeth Goergl took bronze while fancied Swede Anja Paerson crashed out.
Inevitably talk switched to Vonn’s stated hope of becoming the first woman in history to sweep an Olympic alpine programme but Vonn admitted after her recent setbacks she was just glad to get one gold on the board.
Vonn said: “I gave up everything for this. It’s tough when you have an injury – you have to stay on top and do whatever you can to fight back. It’s so painful to ski and it’s a tough course to ski down, but I did and it’s awesome.”
Vonn produced a flawless run down the treacherous Franz’s Run course to knock team-mate Mancuso off top spot. Mancuso, giant-slalom gold medallist in 2006, had taken over the lead from Austria’s Goergl.
Five-time Olympic medallist Paerson was closest to threatening Vonn’s lead time, trailing by only 0.39 seconds towards the bottom of the course when she mis-judged a final jump and crashed into netting.
Paerson’s coach Ulf Emilsson said: “She’s okay – if you see the crash it’s amazing she can actually walk. She is happy to have survived the crash as well as she did. If you know her like I do, she’ll probably be back.”
Vonn’s final major threat was Germany’s Maria Riesch, winner of the most recent downhill prior to the Games, but Riesch made a slow start and eventually had to settle for eighth place.
Vonn added: “I came here and got what I wanted – a gold medal. It’s definitely a huge relief that I finally did it. I had a lot of ups and downs in my career and to be standing at the finish like this is amazing.”
Chemmy Alcott was the first racer down the mountain – the only earlier starter, Klara Krizova, failed to finish – and held on for a solid enough 13th place after a run she described as “an amazing experience.”
Alcott, slated to start in all five alpine disciplines in the Games, finished just a third of a second outside the top 10 and said: “It was the perfect women’s downhill – the best I’ve ever skied.
“I lost a bit of time at the top in the soft stuff and that affected my run. I think I could have gone quicker but I made a few silly mistakes. I went for it totally and when you ski like that, it’s hard to avoid a couple of tiny slips.”
Alcott’s run ended spectacularly when she spent too long waving to friends and family as she crossed the finish line, and crashed into the padded hoardings before clambering back to her feet unharmed.
Alcott added: “It’s just so inspiring to be here at an Olympic Winter Games. The race was an awesome experience. I’m doing a few events here, so that was an amazing way of getting rid of some of the cobwebs.”