Vonn wins gold medal for U.S. in Olympic women’s downhill event Read More: http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2010/olympics/2010/02/17/vonn/index.html?hpt=C1#ixzz0fpjC9a1C Get a free NFL Team Jacket and Tee with SI Subscription

Lindsey Vonn has spent the past four years growing into the best women’s ski racer in U.S. history.

Now she can call herself a gold medalist as well.

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Vonn won the women’s downhill Wednesday with a daring and spectacular run at Whistler Creekside. Her winning time of one minute, 44.19 seconds makes her the first American woman to earn gold in an Olympic downhill.

“I was so nervous and so happy that I made it down,” said Vonn, fighting back tears. “This is the best day of my life. It’s awesome.”

Teammate Julia Mancuso held the early lead with a time of 1:44.75, and finished second. She and Mancuso become the third Americans to finish 1-2 in a downhill event. Austrian Elisabeth Goergl took the bronze, 1.46 seconds behind Vonn with a time of 1:45.65.

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Sweden’s Anja Pärson did not finish the race following a crash and Germany’s Maria Riesch finished a disappointing eighth, 2:07 behind. They were considered the pre-race favorites along with the Americans.

Four years ago, Vonn limped to the start of the Olympic Downhill in Turin, Italy, deeply in pain from a terrifying training crash that left her lower back and hip bruised and sore. She skied anyway, and finished a game but disappointed eighth. Four years later, her time arrived.

This was Vonn ‘s first race since she clinched the World Cup super-G title with a win on Jan. 31; she suffered a shin injury Feb. 2 during a pre-Olympic practice run. She didn’t ski for over a week to help her shin recover and was aided even more when weather cancelled most official training sessions in Vancouver.

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