Americans Wescott, Miller, Vonn rebound
Wescott came to the Winter Olympics as the reigning champion in snowboardcross, yet also as damaged goods. He hurt his leg and pelvis two months ago and it showed in the races since. He opened Monday’s event by finishing 17th of the 32 riders in qualifying, but found his stride to reach the finals.
Then he found himself way back with five jumps left—only to make it up with a thrilling finish that snatched a gold from the host country.
Miller is America’s most decorated Alpine skier and the guy who let everyone down in 2006, failing to finish higher than fifth. He didn’t earn a medal at the two world championships since then and considered retiring before deciding to give the Olympics one more try.
After several days of weather delays, he was one of the first guys down the mountain. The result: a terrific time good enough for bronze, just nine-hundredths of a second behind the winner and only the third-ever downhill medal for the United States.
Vonn was the headliner coming into Vancouver, then all the hype seemed for naught when she revealed a shin injury that made it painful to even wear a ski boot. But the bad weather was a blessing for her recovery and in her first training run early Monday, on the upper section of the course, she had the fastest time in the field.
Then there was a downturn. A bumpy afternoon run on the lower section left her hobbling again and hoping for more weather delays.
Miller’s nine-hundredths of a second behind winner Didier Defago of Switzerland was the smallest margin between gold and bronze in the history of an event that began in 1948.
“It’s such a relief to get a medal,” Miller said. “The fact that those other guys beat me to the hundredth of a second doesn’t bother me.”
The only other Americans to win a medal in the event were golds by Tommy Moe in 1994 and Bill Johnson in ’84. Miller won silver medals in the giant slalom and the combined events in 2002, then flopped at the 2006 Winter Olympics. A fifth-place finish in the downhill turned out to be his best finish.
When Wescott crossed the finish line ahead of Canada’s Mike Robertson, fans gasped and cheered while the 33-year-old champion fell to the ground, exhausted and exhilarated. Tony Ramoin of France won the bronze.
Switzerland’s Dario Cologna collapsed across the finish line after winning the men’s 15-kilometer freestyle cross-country race. Sweden’s Charlotte Kalla led from start to finish to win the women’s 10-kilometer freestyle race.
A brief, private memorial service was held at a Vancouver funeral home for the Georgian luger killed in a crash during training, then his casket was taken to the airport to be flown home for burial.
Three Georgian athletes filed past the open casket to touch the body of their fallen teammate, Nodar Kumaritashvili. His uncle and coach, Felix Kumaritashvili, broke into tears.
Forward Erika Lawler didn’t break any bones or sprain any ligaments when she crashed into the boards Sunday. But she was bruised enough to skip practice Monday.
Coach Mark Johnson is optimistic Lawler will play today against Russia. He knows her pretty well, too. She played for him at the University of Wisconsin, winning three national championships in four years and captaining the 2009 team.
Canada beat Switzerland, 10-1, another thumping but not as lopsided as the Canadians’ 18-0 win over Slovakia.