VANCOUVER (Reuters) - Lindsey Vonn’s Olympic adventure fizzled out in the wrong kind of snow on Whistler mountain on Friday, while down in the city the host nation’s stick men and rock stars prepared for a landmark day on ice.
Vonn, who won gold in the women’s downhill and bronze in super-G, wore a modified glove to help protect her fractured finger but it was to no avail as she straddled a gate on the first slalom run and suffered a third non-finish in five events.
”I am used to the Minnesota and Colorado hard snow,“ the American Alpine skier told reporters. ”This snow doesn’t like me.
“I have the gold medal I came here for,” she added, her heavily bandaged finger on view for all to see. “I am going home happy, maybe a little bit more broken and bruised than when I came here, but happy.”
Germany’s Maria Riesch, gold medalist in the super combined, was fastest on the first run of the slalom and it could be a family affair on the podium this time with her sister Susanne Riesch in fourth.
Vonn came into the Games with hopes of five medals but the Vonn-couver Olympics were not to be.
The real leading lights of these Games, for Canadians at least, are the men’s ice hockey team, who take what they hope will be the penultimate step on the path to glory when they face Slovakia in the semi-finals.
Barring a comeback of heroic proportions, the winner of that game will take on the United States in Sunday’s final, after the Americans roared into a 6-0 lead in the first period of their semi-final against shell-shocked Finland.
Canada already have one hockey gold medal, after the women beat the U.S. on Thursday and celebrated by taking to the ice to drink beer and smoke cigars.
The hosts have a chance of making it another team double in the curling.
The women, led by Cheryl Bernard who is an Olympic rookie at 43, take on mighty Sweden on Friday, before the men attempt to stay undistracted by Norway and their eye-catching, patterned trousers the following day.
Victory for Canada’s women would be enough to take them out on their own at the top of the medals table.
Norway joined Canada, the United States and Germany in a four-way tie at the top of the table with eight golds apiece after dominating the lung-busting men’s biathlon 4x7.5km relay, with Austria taking silver and Russia bronze.
Victory took anchorman Ole Einar Bjoerndalen closer to becoming the all-time Winter Olympics medal winner.
The 36-year-old Bjoerndalen now has 11 career medals, one fewer than his compatriot cross country skier Bjorn Daehlie.
Norway’s win decided the first of seven gold medals in play on Friday.
The most spectacular is likely to come in the women’s Parallel Giant Slalom snowboarding, which was being held under torrential rain on Cypress mountain.
There should be plenty of thrills and spills too in the short-tracking skating, where there are three medals up for grabs in a sport that appears to have been designed as organized chaos on ice.
Apolo Anton Ohno of the United States aims to repeat his 2006 success in the men’s 500m, while China’s Wang Meng goes for her third gold of these Games in the women’s 1000m. The day’s action finishes with South Korea the clear favorites in the men’s 5000m relay.
Editing by Jon Bramley