February 24, 2006
SESTRIERE, Italy (US Ski Team Press Release)—Julia Mancuso (Olympic Valley, CA) led both giant slalom runs Friday and won the gold medal in the final women's alpine event of the '06 Olympics. Stacey Cook (Truckee, CA) was 23rd, Sarah Schleper (Vail, CO) did not finish her second run and Lindsey Kildow (Vail, CO) did not start the race.
Mancuso won gold with a two-run combined time of 2:09.19, .67 seconds ahead of silver medalist Tanja Poutiainen of Finland, who recorded a 2:09.86. The bronze went to Swede Anna Ottosson as she clocked in with a 2:10.33.
"It was hard to stay relaxed, I was definitely nervous in the start," said Mancuso. "I was just ready now, I don't know exactly why -- all the bad weather during these Games and I had a little bit of bad luck, so I just kept training and resting a little bit and finally on the last day it paid off."
Cook was 23rd in 2:14.44. Schleper, who sat in 12th following her first run, did not finish her second. Kildow, who had raced in four events prior to today, decided to skip the GS as she was not feeling well.
A two-time Olympian, it was Mancuso's first medal. The giant slalom was her fourth event of these Games. She led the U.S. skiers with a seventh in the downhill and a ninth in the combined, then placed 11th in the super G. She was 13th in combined at the Salt Lake City Games.
"After the first run I was really excited to be in the lead," said Mancuso. "I had a really great GS race right before this in Ofterschwang in that I was in third place, so I was definitely coming in with the thought of being on the podium and perhaps a win. Going into the second run, I was unaware that some of the girls were having problems. I played it safe but took risks where I could."
Mancuso's medal was the first gold won by a U.S. woman in the giant slalom since Debbie Armstrong won at the 1984 Sarajevo Olympics (the year Mancuso was born). The last giant slalom medal won by an American woman was in 1992 when Diann Roffe took silver in Albertville. Andy Mead Lawrence won a giant slalom gold for the U.S. at the 1952 Oslo Olympics.
Reigning GS gold medalist Janica Kostelic of Croatia, who had won two medals already at the Games (gold in combined, silver in super G), did not compete due to illness and fatigue.
Swede Anja Paerson, a favorite to win along with Kostelic and the silver medalist behind Kostelic in Salt Lake City, was just .18 behind Mancuso after the first run and finished sixth in 2:10.96.
Dumping snow and fog made for near whiteout conditions in some sections of the course. A total of 11 competitors did not finish.[pagebreak]"Standing in the start you couldn't see much at all," said Mancuso. "I felt like I was going pretty slow. I had no idea it was a good run. I knew the course was a little more difficult and I had to play it a little safer. I was a little surprised through the finish just because it was so slow-feeling, but I guess everyone felt that way. Both runs were good, the course crew did a great job in clearing off the snow."
It was the 10th overall medal and fifth gold for American skiers and snowboarders at the Torino Olympics.
"Julia skied with great tactics," said U.S. Alpine Director Jesse Hunt. "She did a great job in the difficult sections and just charged both runs. She stays cool, focuses on what she's doing on the course and with her skiing and pulls out the big performance on the big day -- all those days of powder skiing at Tahoe.
The final alpine event of the Games is the men's slalom, taking place Saturday in Sestriere. Competing for the U.S. will be Jimmy Cochran (Keene, NH), Chip Knight (Stowe, VT), Ted Ligety (Park City, UT) and Bode Miller (Bretton Woods, NH).
"This is great momentum," said Hunt. "We have one race to go and we've got a good shot in that race."
X OLYMPIC WINTER GAMES
Sestriere, ITA - Feb. 24, 2006
Women's Giant Slalom
1. Julia Mancuso, Olympic Valley, Calif., 2:09.19<
2. Tanja Poutiainen, Finland, 2:09.86
3. Anna Ottosson, Sweden, 2:10.33
4. Nicole Hosp, Austria, 2:10.66
5. Genevieve Simard, Canada, 2:10.73
23. Stacey Cook, Truckee, Calif., 2:14.44
Did not finish 2nd run:
Sarah Schleper, Vail, Colo.
Did not start:
Lindsey Kildow, Vail, Colo.
For complete results: