Mancuso snares gold medal to go with tiara

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Julia Mancuso, the American from aptly named Olympic Valley, Calif., captured gold with a stunning victory in the giant slalom Friday that salvaged a disappointing Olympics for the U.S. women.

The 21-year-old Mancuso, known for wearing a tiara in slalom races, gave the American women their first Olympic medal since Picabo Street earned gold in the super-G at the 1998 Nagano Games.

With two strong runs in snowy, foggy weather, Mancuso had a combined time of 2 minutes, 9.19 seconds, .67 seconds faster than silver medalist Tanja Poutiainen of Finland. With a big second run, Anna Ottosson of Sweden took the bronze, 1.14 seconds behind Mancuso.

Mancuso's medal was the second for the Americans in Alpine skiing, both gold. Ted Ligety won the men's combined last week.

U.S. men win bronze

The Canadians, silver medalists in men's curling in 1998 and 2002, left little doubt this time around, routing Finland 10-4 to win their first gold medal.

Canada has won 29 world championships in curling, the country's second-most popular sport behind hockey, but had lost that last two gold-medal matches in the Olympics.

The United States earned its share of curling glory -- its first medal ever in the sport.

The American men won the bronze by beating Britain 8-6 in the consolation game, jumping to an early lead and then clinching the victory with a simple draw to the middle of the target in the final end.

With the Americans holding the big last-rock advantage known as the hammer for the final end, they played defensively and kept the British from building any protection. The British had one rock in the target area and used their last rock as a guard.

But Pete Fenson had an open draw around the right to get inside of Britain's rock and give the U.S. the bronze.

Hedrick takes silver

Bob de Jong of the Netherlands bounced back from a miserable performance at the 2002 Salt Lake City Games to win a surprising gold in the 10,000 meters, the final men's speedskating event of these games.

American Chad Hedrick, the world record holder, finished second to complete his set: one gold, one silver and one bronze. Another Dutch skater, Carl Verheijen, took the bronze.

De Jong's winning time of 13 minutes, 1.57 seconds was nearly four seconds better than his personal best. Hedrick, who faltered in the middle of the grueling race, finished in 13:05.40 -- a full 10 seconds off the world mark he set in December at Salt Lake City.

While Hedrick didn't match Eric Heiden's record of five gold medals from the 1980 Lake Placid Games, he still became the first American to win three medals in Turin and will be remembered for one of the great performances in U.S. speedskating history.

--The Associated Press

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