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U.S. inches closer to medal goals



Published: Mon, January 31, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



The team is aiming for eight medals -- and may do even better.

SANTA CATERINA VALFURVA, Italy (AP) -- Julia Mancuso gave the U.S. ski team its second medal in two days at the world championships.

She captured the bronze medal Sunday in a super giant slalom won by Sweden's Anja Paerson. The third-place finish came a day after Bode Miller took the gold in a men's super-G to open the competition.

The team's goal of eight medals -- split evenly between the men and the women -- now looks as if it could be surpassed with nine events remaining.

"I didn't think the goals were extraordinary," said Mancuso, who finished among the top three for the first time at the sport's highest level. "It can definitely be done and there's even more to come."

Unlike Miller, however, Mancuso entered with few expectations. The biggest pre-race hope for the American women was Lindsey Kildow, who made several errors and finished ninth, 1.18 seconds behind Paerson.

Another American, Kirsten Clark, was 10th despite a concussion during training last Monday, giving the United States three of the top 10 finishers.

Paerson, the defending overall World Cup winner, was timed in 1 minute, 17.64 seconds for her first major international title in a speed race. Lucia Recchia of Italy earned the silver, 0.45 behind. Mancuso trailed by 0.76 in the inaugural super-G on the new Deborah Compagnoni course.

'It was perfect'

"Today I was probably the most relaxed I've been in a race going out of the gate," Mancuso said. "I think I timed everything right. I went back to the hotel after warmup and relaxed a little and then got up to the start about 15 minutes before and I was warm. It was perfect."

An early starter, Mancuso also did well at getting through a treacherous upper part of the course, where many later skiers faltered.

"The course was faster and more technical than most people thought after inspection, and I guess I handled it better than some of the other skiers," she said. "I think this medal takes a little pressure off. I've already got one medal in my pocket so I've already exceeded expectations."

Young guns

Mancuso set the U.S. record for junior world championship medals at eight, and posted top-10 World Cup results in all four disciplines this season, but she had never finished in the top three on the senior circuit.

"First time on the podium, and it's at the world championships, that's awesome," U.S. women's head coach Patrick Riml said.

Mancuso and Kildow are both 20, two of skiing's young threats.

"Across the board I don't have any super event, but I have 400 points now just from doing all events and getting top 10s," said Mancuso, a Californian who is 12th in the overall World Cup standings.

"And in the years to come I'll have events where I'm ranked in the top three."

Kildow, who ranks sixth overall, won one race and has finished among the top three six times this season.

Rivals

Mancuso and Kildow acknowledge a rivalry.

"We've been going head to head since we were young, so it's nothing new for us," Kildow said. "Just maybe before no one noticed."

Mancuso says there is room for both skiers to become team leaders.

"I don't think it's going to be like in the past with one face for the team because I think eventually all of our team is going to be in contention for any medal everywhere," she said.

Mancuso was not certain her medal finish would hold up until the final elite skier -- Austrian speedster Renate Goetschl -- made a big error on the top part of the course and came in 23rd.

"I couldn't watch, I was really nervous, so Kirsten was giving me the play by play," Mancuso said.

Clark won the silver medal in the super-G at the 2003 worlds in St. Moritz, Switzerland, while teammate Jonna Mendes earned the bronze.

Mendes didn't make the super-G team this time, but she decided at the last minute to wander down from her hotel room and watch her teammates from the sunny finish area.

"I'm glad I'm here for Jules," she said. "If anyone is going to take my bronze away from me, I'm glad it was her."




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