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As of February 18, 2010, 8:00AM

United States – Gold: 5; Silver: 3 Bronze: 6

Germany – Gold: 3; Silver: 4; Bronze: 3

France – Gold: 2; Silver: 1; Bronze: 4

Canada – Gold: 2; Silver: 3; Bronze: 1

WHISTLER — From the time they started ski racing, Lindsey Vonn, a reserved Minnesotan, and Julia Mancuso, an outgoing Californian, were linked.

They have been teammates or rivals for more than a dozen years at elite skiing camps, U.S. development teams, the U.S. ski team and, eventually, at World Cups, World Championships and the Olympics.

Not the best of friends but not really enemies, either, when one finished a race, the other was usually close behind.

Their careers ebbed and flowed, on different timetables.

Mancuso won big first — taking two bronze medals at the 2005 Worlds, then winning an Olympic gold medal in 2006.

Then, while Mancuso struggled with back and equipment problems, Vonn charged to international stardom, winning consecutive World Cup overall titles in 2007-08 and 2008-09 and stamping herself as the favorite to win multiple gold medals in the Vancouver Games.

Their careers intersected dramatically at Whistler Mountain Wednesday, which turned out to be one of the greatest day in U.S. women’s skiing history when Vonn, 25, won the gold medal in the Olympic downhill and Mancuso, also 25, won the silver.

Vonn, winning as expected, became the first U.S. woman to win an Olympic downhill, something not even her role model, Picabo Street, ever did.

Mancuso, not as expected, nearly kept Vonn from winning, hammering a near-perfect run from the 10th starting position and taking the lead by nearly a full second.

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