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Lindsey Vonn, Julia Mancuso put Americans 1-2 in downhill

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Alessandro Trovati/AP

(Read caption) Lindsey Vonn of the United States speeds down the course during the Women's downhill, at the Vancouver 2010 Olympics in Whistler, British Columbia, Wednesday.

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Americans Lindsey Vonn and Julia Mancuso put in a remarkable performance Wednesday, winning gold and silver on a vicious women's downhill course that chewed up some of the top skiers on the women's circuit.

The victory was stunning in its enormity, with Vonn topping Mancuso by 0.56 seconds and the rest of the field by an almost incomprehensible 1.46 seconds.

Changing conditions might have played a role, as the course appeared to slow as it warmed in the morning sun.

But it was an impeccable run by Vonn, made even more impressive by the fact that the course was excessively rough – putting greater stress on the injured shin that, a week ago, threatened to prevent her from skiing at all in these Olympics.

Instead, bad weather postponed the first two women's events, meaning that the first women's event of these Olympics – today's downhill – took place three days later than expected. Vonn's coach and husband, Thomas, stressed that the delay helped his wife enormously, giving her shin time to mend.

The result mirrored results in the training run, where Vonn and Mancuso also finished 1-2. It also keeps Vonn on track to win multiple gold medals here in Vancouver. She is a favorite in tomorrow's event, the combined, and she is the No. 1-ranked super G skier in the world. The super G is scheduled for Saturday.

The Franz's Downhill course proved an enormous challenge for even the best skiers Wednesday. In particular, the last jump claimed no fewer than three skiers, including Sweden's Anja Paerson, the No. 3-ranked skier in the world. The jump launched her 200 feet down the hill before she crumpled on landing and skidded off the course. She walked off the course with help.

The gold is Vonn's first Olympic medal. Mancuso's silver is her second medal; she won gold in the giant slalom in Turin.

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Austrian Elizabeth Goergl took the bronze Wednesday.

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