Sun, Feb 26, 2006 - Page 24 News List

Julia Mancuso grabs gold

DAY 15 The American claimed the top prize in the giant slalom as Tanja Poutiainen of Finland took the silver and Anna Ottosson of Sweden won the bronze

AP , TURIN, ITALY

Julia Mancuso, center, of the US, celebrates winning the gold medal in the women's giant slalom, along with Tanja Poutiainen, left, of Finland, who took the silver, and Anna Ottosson of Sweden who won the bronze, in Sestriere Colle, Italy, on Friday.

PHOTO: AP

Julia Mancuso's giant slalom gold medal sparked celebrations for Americans and Italians. And 50-year-old Russ Howard helped perk up Canada's post-hockey mood by winning a long-awaited Olympic men's triumph in curling -- the country's No. 2 sport.

Austria's biathlon and cross-country teams also had some reason to be buoyant Friday, with all 10 athletes under the scope returning negatives to out-of-competition doping tests from last weekend's unprecedented raids by Italian police. But that issue is far from over at the Winter Games.

The International Olympic Committee said it will press ahead with a far-reaching probe based on evidence seized at the lodgings of Austrian athletes and staff by police under Italy's strict anti-doping laws.

"The IOC takes this affair very seriously and is determined to do everything in its power to bring full clarity to what has happened," IOC spokeswoman Giselle Davies said. "We must look at the bigger picture."

Disgraced coach Walter Mayer, whose presence in Turin sparked the anti-doping raids, is still in a psychiatric ward in Austria.

But the trouble his presence in Turin caused won't be settled for weeks, the IOC said, with the disciplinary hearings into the Austrian case expected to stretch for weeks or months.

"We wish to avoid the image of conducting some sort of witch hunt here, but we have reason to follow up a certain number of cases," said IOC medical commission chief Arne Ljungqvist said.

Canada beat Finland 10-4 in eight ends to win the men's curling gold medal, making Howard the oldest gold medalist ever at the Winter Olympics. The US won its first curling medal -- a bronze -- when its men's team beat Britain 8-6.

The men's hockey finalists were decided Friday -- Nordic neighbors Finland and Sweden will play in the gold medal game today. Sweden beat the world champion Czech Republic 7-3 and Finland shut out Russia 4-0, leaving the losers to play in the bronze medal match.

Gone are both finalists from 2002 in Salt Lake -- defending champions Canada and the US. Both lost in the quarterfinals, the Americans to Finland and Canada to Russia.

There were some positives in cross country -- positive stories that is.

In the final event of the women's program, super mom Katerina Neumannova won the Czech Republic's first gold medal of the games, edging favorite Julija Tchepalova of Russia to win the 30km mass start race in 1 hour, 22 minutes, 25.4 seconds.

Tchepalova, who won gold in Saturday's 4x5km relay, led for most of the race and likely would have won had she not fallen while climbing a hill in the late stages.

Neumannova collapsed across the finish and raised her poles in triumph, then embraced her two-year-old daughter, Lucie, who travels the circuit with her.

"When my daughter was born, I decided she was most important," Neumannova said. "It's difficult, but it's possible. It was not possible to leave my daughter at home, because I travel for skiing. She is always with me."

The US won its second Alpine skiing gold here when Mancuso won the slalom.

The 21-year-old Mancuso gave the American women their first Olympic gold since Picabo Street won the super-G at the 1998 Nagano Games.

She 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.

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