Vail’s Lindsey Vonn suffered through severe shin pain yesterday to earn the Olympic gold medal in women’s downhill, becoming the first American to ever accomplish the feat (via The Denver Post). American Julia Mancuso, Vonn’s childhood rival and the defending giant slalom Olympic gold medalist, took silver.

All the attention, as usual, was on Vonn and how her right leg would handle a course she called bumpy and rough earlier in the week. The same injury risked overshadowing the entire U.S. presence at the Olympics and kept Vonn off the slopes last week. Vonn tells Sports Illustrated she felt compelled to reveal her injury in case she failed miserably. But the Minnesota native was able to excise her demons, succeeding at a level no American woman ever has before.

“This is the best day of my life, by far,” Vonn said. “I’m overwhelmed.”

Vonn wept as she celebrated the win with most of her family at the bottom of the course. Missing was her father, Alan Kildow, with whom Vonn hasn’t spoken in years. Britain’s Daily Express points out the situation with her father has allowed Vonn to focus more closely on her skiing and become a lot more disciplined in her training and approach to the sport. SI reports that Kildow watched his estranged daughter win the gold medal on a television feed from Minnesota, saying afterward in an e-mail that “it was a pleasure to watch.”

Vonn isn’t finished, though. She has another medal opportunity today in the super combined, notes Sports Illustrated, which includes a run of downhill racing and slalom. She’ll also compete in Saturday’s super-G, a race she’s been favored to win.