There was a reason to celebrate last night, and that reason was Lindsey Vonn and Julia Mancuso, who made history yesterday by clinching the gold and silver in the women’s downhill at the 2010 Winter Games, marking the best day in U.S. women’s skiing ever.
On this bluebird day, cowbells clanged and horns blasted as both girls laid down smoking fast runs on a treacherous course that saw racer after racer wipe out. Anja Parson was on track for the silver until she launched off a jump and sky-rocketed 60 meters through the air, skidding across the finish line. Another Romanian racer had to be helicoptered off the mountain after hitting the safety nets at high speeds. After a lackluster run from Maria Reisch, Vonn’s close friend, rival, and the greatest threat to her gold, Mancuso and Vonn could breathe easy. Once in the home stretch, Lindsey hugged her siblings over the gates. They huddled and Vonn, ever the steely competitor, had tears running down her rosy cheeks. It was the first time an American woman had won the Olympic downhill.
It’s an image that will no doubt live on as one of the iconic moments of the 2010 Games: Two wide-smiled, blue-eyed American beauties waving Old Glory together atop the podium during the flower ceremony. With the bright blue sky and Whistler’s snowcapped peaks behind them, it was post card perfect.
With the race over, it was time to celebrate. While Mancuso and Vonn were subjected to the obligatory post-race, doping drill, press conference and workout, their cheering squads rallied at the Red Bull House to toast the girls with bubbly, Red Bull and glowing recaps of the day. The Vonntourage was in full force, joined by the Under Armor crew and U.S. ladies' coaches Frank the Tank, Alex Hodelmoser, and Chris Knight.
Vonn’s mom, Linda Krohn, was exuberant and confessed, “When Lindsey saw her brother and sister, she cried. Lindsey never cries. I’ve never seen her like that.”
Back in town, the village was abuzz. Folks scrambled to score tickets to the 7 pm medals ceremony. Once the dual American flags began to rise and the national anthem swept over the crowd, there was nary a dry American eye. And who wouldn’t feel a twinge of patriotism? This was a moment for the history books.
With the ceremony over, the party cranked up into high gear. First stop: the Spyder-sponsored U.S. Ski Team house where an intimate reception was held to honor Mancuso and Vonn. Extreme skier Chris Davenport was in the house, and so was Steven Nyman from the men’s ski team, who busted out some wicked late night dance moves. Mancuso’s crew was decked out in tiaras and striped hoodies stamped on the back with a gold caricature of Mancuso in full-throttle race tuck (and she drew it herself).
The CEO of the USSA, Bill Marolt raised a glass to the girls. “We have two phenomenal athletes, we have two phenomenal people. Today you saw a performance that you may never see again.” And, he might be right.
As Marolt turned the mic over to Mancuso, she began to tear up. “It’s been rough for me the past couple of years. And to everyone who’s supported me but especially, I have to thank my friend Suzuko because….She’s seen me cry a lot and its not from being happy.”
Julia then passed the mic to a composed Lindsey, “It’s been a long journey for all of us and I think today having both of us on the podium is really a testament to not just our hard work, but the entire team. Thanks to everyone, especially my husband Thomas,” she paused. And like a teenage girl, she cooed, “He’s cuuute.”
The crowd erupted into “One-two USA! One-two USA!” When the noise subsided, the girls toasted each other, signed autographs, and mingled with family and friends before being whisked off to prepare for the next day’s super combined. In the mean time, the rest of the crew was primed to party. It was truly an occasion to celebrate.