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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Italy's New Queen of Cross-Country

LILLEHAMMER, Norway -- Move over Alberto. Lillehammer has discovered Manuela di Centa, a real Italian with just as much charm and a lot more medals at these Games.

While Alberto Tomba is struggling, "Manu" won her fifth medal Thursday, leading the Azzurri team to its best finish ever in the Winter Games.

"Splendida, splendida," said a beaming Di Centa on Thursday after she won the 30-kilometers race, the blue ribbon event in the women's cross country. "I had no particular dream coming here but I thought I could do well," she added.

She will leave Lillehammer with two gold, two silver and a bronze medal. Only Norwegian cross-country skier Bjorn Dahlie can match that total if he wins at Sunday's 50-kilometer race.

Little wonder Italy's newspapers call her "Manuela Nazionale."

After the season, she can go back to designing her own cross-country outfits if she decides to continue her career.

"I won't say now what I'll do," she said. "I'll have to think about it."

Di Centa did no worse than bronze in Lillehammer. With five medals, she could stake a claim as the queen of cross-country racing, although Russia's Lyubov Yegorova has three golds.

"But I don't feel like a queen, I feel like a cross-country skier," Di Centa said Thursday after her triumph.