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Vonn Gold Highlights Banner Day for USA

WHISTLER - Lindsey Vonn fought through a painful shin bruise Wednesday and answered the challenge thrown down by teammate Julia Mancuso to become the first American woman to win the Olympic downhill.

The USA's gold-silver finish was its first in Alpine skiing since 1984, when Phil and Steve Mahre went 1-2 in the men's slalom and Debbie Armstrong and Christin Cooper matched that in the women's giant slalom. The USA has won three medals in two races, eclipsing its total of two in the 2006 Games in Torino. It was the 15th time in Winter Olympic history that the USA won gold and silver in the same event.

The medals in the women's downhill were two of the six won by Americans on Wednesday. In speedskating, Shani Davis defended his Olympic gold in the 1,000 meters and teammate Chad Hedrick took bronze. Wednesday night, Shaun White repeated as men's halfpipe champion and Scotty Lago took the bronze.

Vonn's gold ended the question of whether her injury would keep her from contending for a medal in Vancouver.

"This is everything I've worked my whole life for and I knew that in the starting gate," said Vonn, a two-time World Cup overall champion. "I knew that I had to take it, I had to ski aggressively or else somebody else was going to win that gold. It wasn't a perfect run but it was a good run, and that was all I needed."

Vonn's run was better than good, it was nearly flawless. Mancuso, a gold medalist in giant slalom four years ago, started 10th and set a blistering pace down Franz's Run, finishing in 1 minute, 44.75 seconds. That was 0.90 of a second ahead of eventual bronze medalist Elisabeth Goergl of Austria.

Vonn, starting 16th, grabbed the lead after the first timing interval and never trailed, finishing in 1:44.19.

Vonn had dominated the World Cup circuit this season, winning five of six downhills. But she suffered a deep shin bruise in a training run Feb. 2 that she carried into the Olympics.

Weather delays allowed her to rest the injury, and she has chances to medal again in today's super combined and Saturday's super-G.

"When I crashed, I thought my Games were over," she said. "I got the gold medal I came here to get, and now I'm just going to attack every day with no regrets and no fear. Anything else from here on out is a bonus."

- White secured his second Olympic halfpipe gold medal on his first run without trying his signature Double McTwist 1260. He nailed the move on his second run - after he had already clinched a victory - and received a score of 48.4.

"It was the savvy thing to do. Saucy. Keep it weird," White said.

Finland's Peetu Piiroinen won silver with 45.0 points.

With Lago's bronze medal, American men and women have taken 12 of the 21 halfpipe medals awarded since the sport came to the Olympics in 1998.

White becomes the fourth U.S. man to repeat as a Winter Olympic champion. Three of the four repeat champions have done it in Vancouver - Seth Wescott and Davis were the others - joining figure skater Dick Button, who accomplished the feat in 1948 and 1952.

- The USA won two more medals when Davis, 27, the world recordholder at 1,000 meters, won his specialty, edging South Korea's Mo Tae-bum by 0.18 of a second.

Hedrick, 32, and Davis, his teammate and rival, will face off again Saturday in the 1,500.

"We drive each other. I think we just make each other better," Hedrick said.

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