Julia Mancuso, a colorful skier from Lake Tahoe, has a knack for attracting the spotlight at the Winter Olympics.
The Sochi Olympics are no different.
Mancuso has already added to her Olympic legacy as one of the best alpine skiers the United States has ever produced.
Product of Squaw Valley in Tahoe
Mancuso, who calls Squaw Valley ski resort home, produced another memorable Olympic moment on Monday, surprising the ski world with a bronze medal in the super combined skiing event.
With one medal already secured, Mancuso is after more, starting Wednesday in her best event, the women’s downhill. In the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, Mancuso earned a silver in both downhill and combined.
Even if she doesn’t make another podium appearance in the Sochi Olympics, the 29-year-old Mancuso already has her place in Olympic history secured. She has four Olympic medals, the most
for an American women in alpine skiing.
Besides skiing in the downhill, Mancuso will be on the slopes Saturday in the super combined and Tuesday in the giant slalom.
Fourth Olympics for Mancuso
Now in her fourth Winter Olympics, this feels like home to Mancuso.
“I really put the focus back on the Olympics and back on myself, and wanting to ski for myself and have fun,” Mancuso said this week. “I really think positive, and look at these Olympics as a place where I could go and win medal.”
It seems to be a winning philosophy for Mancuso, who was the gold medalist in the giant slalom at the 2006 Winter Olympics.
Started World Cup at age 16
Mancuso has been a strong international skier since she started World Cup racing and was a NorAm champion at 16. She competed in the Olympics at age 17, set a U.S. mark for Junior World Championships medals before she was out of her teens, and then entered her 20s by capturing two World Championships medals.
Naturally Mancuso is a huge source of pride for Squaw Valley, which hosted the 1960 Winter Olympics. The Olympic rings that hang over the Squaw village are a great source of pride and inspiration to Mancuso. After she won gold in 2006 at Torino, Squaw Valley named one of its trails – “Julia’s Gold.”
Mancuso favored in downhill
Mancuso will be competing in the downhill, which has always been her primary event. She had the top downhill time in Monday’s super combined and did just well enough in the slalom to secure the bronze medal.
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 U.S. teammate 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,” said Germany’s Maria Hoefl-Riesch, who won gold in the super combined.