American women close ranks after spat

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By Simon Evans

WHISTLER (Reuters) - Double Vancouver Games silver medalist Julia Mancuso sought to end the public dispute with her team mate Lindsey Vonn on Thursday as the U.S. team closed ranks.

Mancuso's reported comments about downhill champion Vonn and a "popularity contest" within the U.S. team, sparked media speculation of a rift between the two.

But after failing to defend her 2006 gold medal in giant slalom, Mancuso paid tribute to Vonn.

"I really think it has been taken a little out of proportion. I respect her and I said before that of course she deserved the attention, she really is the greatest female American skier we have ever had," she told reporters.

The pair have competed on the same teams since their early teens.

"We are both very different and we both got to these Games and got our medals in completely opposite ways, I am sure that is what fuels the fire even more, but of course it is always good to see a fellow American on the podium," she said.

Mancuso said it was not the amount of focus that Vonn was enjoying in the media which concerned her, rather a desire to see the U.S. team's successes recognized as a whole.

"The way that it came across that it was a media attention fight or something like that -- that is just ridiculous.

"The real thing is trying to express the results of our team, how well our team has been doing. That's something I said, not about the media attention on Lindsey or that I should get more.

"It was about our whole team. I just hope that everyone can appreciate every single member of the U.S. ski team out there doing their best," added Mancuso.

Team mate Sarah Schleper said the tension between Mancuso and Vonn had been exaggerated.

"They are just both really passionate about ski racing and being on the top of the podium, they love winning," she said.

"I think the media has been blowing it up a little bit because our team is really tight knit and we all get along pretty well. I think it is just getting blown out of proportion."

(Editing by Ed Osmond)