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A very pleasant surprise

ON THE SLOPES: In claiming an unexpected gold in the giant slalom Friday, American Julia Mancuso did her part to salvage a calamitous Olympics for the U.S. ski team, which arrived touting a goal of winning eight medals.

With eight of 10 Alpine events completed entering Friday's race, U.S. skiers had one medal: Ted Ligety's gold in the men's combined. Mancuso single-handedly doubled the team's medal tally and snapped an Olympic Alpine medal drought by U.S. women that dated to 1998, when Picabo Street won gold in the super-G at Nagano.

As she stood at the start gate, Mancuso could hear the course maintenance workers calling her name - Italians rooting for an Italian-American they had adopted. "I thought that all I had to do was ski fast to the bottom," she later said. "I wouldn't make it any more complicated than that."

Mancuso's more heralded teammate, Lindsey Kildow, withdrew because of lingering lower-back pain from her Feb. 13 crash during training.

"Lindsey tried to ski," U.S. director Jesse Hunt said. "But with conditions the way they were and poor visibility and the way she felt, it just didn't make a whole lot of sense."

Tanja Poutiainen of Finland won silver, and Anna Ottosson of Sweden took bronze. Defending Olympic champion Janica Kostelic was ill and withdrew.

UP NEXT: Women's alpine skiing is finished.

QUOTABLE: "I can't believe I just won the Olympics! It's weird to say that!"

- Mancuso

- TIMES WIRES

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