The combined is an event that features one downhill run, followed by a slalom run. The event combines both scores.
An American skier in her fourth Olympics, the 29-year-old Mancuso carried a lead of .47 seconds into the slalom and finished the combined with a time of 2:35.15. She was just .10 seconds ahead of Slovenia's Tina Maze.
Germany’s Maria Hoefl-Riesch and Nicole Hosp of Austria posted better times in the slalom to move past Mancuso and win gold and silver, respectively.
Fourth Olympic medal for Mancuso
Mancuso, who finished second to Hoefl-Riesch in 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, grabbed the early lead with a terrific downhill run and did just enough in the slalom to earn her fourth Olympic medal, tops all-time for American women in alpine skiing.
The 29-year-old American carried a lead of .47 seconds into the slalom and finished the combined with a time of 2:35.15. She was just .10 seconds ahead of Slovenia's Tina Maze.
Mancuso admitted she was uncertain about the slalom portion of the event, noting that she hasn't worked on it consistently since early 2013. She felt that even finishing the slalom was a relief.
“I haven’t raced a full length of slalom since last year,” Mancuso said. “That was definitely on my mind when I kicked out of the starting gate. Crossing the finish line was definitely a surprise. Super combined wasn’t one of the events I was thinking gold was a possibility. A medal was kind of a long shot, too.”
Mancuso a favorite in Wednesday's downhill
Mancuso will be back on the snow Wednesday in Sochi in the downhill, which has always been her primary event.
The bronze was the first medal for the U.S. in alpine skiing in the 2014 Winter Olympics and established Mancuso as one of the favorites in the downhill Wednesday.
“It's like something in the waters,” Mancuso said of her tendency to deliver in big events like the Olympics. “I grew up in an Olympic Valley (Squaw Valley). It’s in my blood. It was a great downhill run. I kicked out of the gate wanting to win and tried being as aerodynamic as possible.”
Mancuso’s bronze accomplished something unlikely coming into these Games – she filled a medal void created by the absence of Lindsey Vonn.
Vonn, who is injured and missed the Olympics, has long dominated the super combined on the World Cup circuit. But it was also Vonn who failed to finish in Vancouver after winning the downhill portion of the event.
Mancuso fared far better in that race, winning silver and salvaging what was arguably the most disappointing Alpine moment in Vancouver.
“Nothing surprises me with Mancuso. “She always does really well in the big races,” Hoefl-Riesch said.
Truckee’s Stacy Cook falters on downhill course
Stacey Cook and Laurenne Ross of the U.S. were both eliminated after failing to complete the downhill course.
American Leanne Smith was 20th after the downhill, but was disqualified after missing a gate in the slalom.
Cook was born in Truckee and now trains at Mammoth Mountain.