Vonn showed no signs of discomfort when she won the Olympic downhill by more than half a second Wednesday, with childhood rival and American teammate Julia Mancuso taking a surprise silver medal.
"This is everything I've wanted and hoped for," Vonn said, her voice choked with emotion. "I gave up everything for this."
Vonn hurt her right shin Feb. 2 during pre-Olympic training in Austria and had hardly skied during the past two weeks. Still, as the two-time defending overall World Cup champion and the winner of five of the six downhills this season, she was an overwhelming favorite.
"She had the weight of the world on her," said Vonn's husband and chief adviser Thomas, a former U.S. skier who also serves as her personal coach. "People were basically hanging the medal around her neck before the start. That's incredibly hard to deal with."
Thomas Vonn was up at the top of the hill before his wife's run, and the Vonns hugged for 30 seconds when they reunited at the finish.
"It was one of the most clutch runs I've ever seen," Thomas Vonn said.
In a race characterized by several crashes - including one by Swedish standout Anja Paerson - Vonn's sped down Franz's Downhill in 1 minute, 44.19 seconds.
Mancuso, who was out with a back injury last year, finished 0.56 seconds behind, and Elisabeth Goergl of Austria took the bronze, 1.46 seconds back.
It's the third time Americans have finished 1-2 in an Olympic Alpine race. At the 1984 Sarajevo Games, brothers Phil and Steve Mahre took gold and silver in the slalom and Debbie Armstrong and Christin Cooper did it in giant slalom.
No American woman had won the Olympic downhill before. Hilary Lindh and Picabo Street both took silver - in 1992 and 1994, respectively.
Having previously coached the men, U.S. women's coach Jim Tracy is at his sixth Olympics and called this his career highlight. "I've been fortunate to be with some pretty great athletes, and I have to say with everything [Vonn] has gone through and Julia's gone through, this probably ranks as the top one for me," he said.