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Last Updated: Friday, 24 February 2006, 13:56 GMT
Mancuso storms home to GS gold
Julia Mancuso
Mancuso shows her delight after clinching giant slalom gold
American Julia Mancuso claimed the gold medal in the women's giant slalom with a powerful run in a snowy Sestriere.

Leading after the first run, Mancuso stormed home in a combined time of two minutes 09.19 seconds.

Finland's Tanja Poutiainen claimed the silver medal in 2:09.86, ahead of Sweden's Anna Ottosson (2:10.33).

Slalom gold medallist Anja Paerson slipped from second after run one to sixth, while Briton Chemmy Alcott climbed from 32nd to 22nd overall.

"I can't believe it. I was freaking out at the start because the course was tough," said 21-year-old Mancuso. "I'm really happy. Today I had so much fun doing this race. I wasn't thinking of gold. I was thinking of the podium."

Austria's Nicole Hosp, a silver medal winner in the women's slalom, finished fourth.

Croatia's Janica Kostelic, the defending Olympic champion, did not race because of illness.

The 24-year-old, who captured three golds and a silver at the 2002 Olympics, defended her combined crown this time while taking silver in the Super-G.

I was bit surprised at the end, it took a while for it to sink in
Julia Mancuso

Paerson, who claimed a first Olympic gold in the slalom on top of the bronzes she won in the downhill and the combined, would have joined Kostelic on a record six Olympic medals had she finished on the podium.

"I'm happy, this has been a good Olympics," said Paerson, for whom victory would have emulated compatriot Ingemar Stenmark's double gold in the technical events in 1980.

"It was always a tough fight with the snow. I really wanted to have medal today, but you can't have it all."

Mancuso, who won bronze medals in the giant slalom and super-G at last year's world championships, has had a hat-trick of top-three finishes on the World Cup circuit this year.

But she has yet to win a World Cup event and is ninth in the World Cup giant slalom standings.

"I was just ready for this win now," Mancuso said afterwards. "I don't know why.

"I was a little bit surprised at the finish. It took a while to sink in, but I guess everyone felt that way."

Mancuso's first ever Olympic medal will prove a welcome tonic for the USA.

Their Alpine team have failed miserably after setting out on a quest for at least eight medals.

Ted Ligety won the men's combined title last week but compatriots Bode Miller, Daron Rahlves and women's speed specialist Lindsey Kildow have disappointed.


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