By Bob Barnett
SESTRIERE – Julie Mancuso ended the U.S. Ski Team’s run of misery at the 2006 Winter Olympics by claiming the gold medal in today’s giant slalom, while Genevieve Simard continued the Canadian tradition of just missing the medals.
Mancuso won the first run and was second in the second run to win in two minutes, 9.19 seconds on a course shortened because of fog and falling snow.
Finland’s Tanja Poutiainen claimed the silver medal in 2:09.86, while Sweden’s Anna Ottosson recorded the fastest second run and moved up to take the bronze medal.
Simard, who was sixth after the first run, wound up fifth, .40 seconds behind Ottosson.
The 25-year-old resident of Val Morin, Quebec said she got off line in her second run and that slowed her down.
“I tried to take some risks and I made a mistake and that threw off my focus a little bit, so I wasn’t able to carry as much speed as I wanted for the end of the course on the flats.
“But I’m happy with how I handled today and I’m right there with the best girls, just today wasn’t my day. It’s a little hard to accept when the objective is a medal but I’ll be there in four years and I’m also really looking forward to the next World Cups we have.”
While the light was flat for the first run, the snowfall was heavier in the second run, making visibility even more difficult.
“The ground was hard to see, but you know, that’s ski racing,” Simard said.
“The best girls and the champions, they can ski on every course in every condition, that’s just how it is.”
Brigitte Acton of Mont Tremblant finished 11 th , in 2:11.71. Christina Lustenberger, a Whistler Mountain Ski Club alumnus, hooked a tip on a gate in the first run and did not finish.
Simard’s fifth place and three fourth place finishes at these Olympics, by Canadians Erik Guay, Francois Bourque and Kelly Vanderbeek have left the Canadian Alpine Ski Team without a medal and a little frustrated.
“For sure we were unlucky, three fourth places and a fifth place, it’s so close,” Simard said. “So close to being four medals instead of none.”
The combined time difference between the fourth and fifth places and four bronze medals is 1.29 seconds.
“In skiing, I can only control me and today I did my best but you also need a little bit of luck,” Simard said.
“I think that as a nation and as a team we’re pretty strong. I’m leaving the Olympics with my head held up high and confident and positive for the next races, and I’m sure that the others are feeling the same too.”