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Mancuso wins fourth Alpine skiing medal in Winter Olympics

  • Women's supercombined bronze medalist United States' Julia Mancuso, right,  celebrates while Germany's gold medalist Maria Hoefl-Riesch, left, waits to take the podium during a flower ceremony at the Alpine ski venue at the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics, Monday, Feb. 10, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

    Women's supercombined bronze medalist United States' Julia Mancuso, right, celebrates while Germany's gold medalist Maria Hoefl-Riesch, left, waits to take the podium during a flower ceremony at the Alpine ski venue at the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics, Monday, Feb. 10, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

  • Bronze medal winner United States' Julia Mancuso celebrates finishing the slalom portion of the women's supercombined at the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics, Monday, Feb. 10, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)

    Bronze medal winner United States' Julia Mancuso celebrates finishing the slalom portion of the women's supercombined at the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics, Monday, Feb. 10, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)

  • United States' Julia Mancuso celebrates as finishes the slalom portion of the women's supercombined to win the bronze medal at the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics, Monday, Feb. 10, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. (AP Photo/Luca Bruno)

    United States' Julia Mancuso celebrates as finishes the slalom portion of the women's supercombined to win the bronze medal at the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics, Monday, Feb. 10, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. (AP Photo/Luca Bruno)

  • United States' Julia Mancuso passes a gate in the slalom portion of the women's supercombined to win the bronze medal in the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics, Monday, Feb. 10, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia.(AP Photo/Alessandro Trovati)

    United States' Julia Mancuso passes a gate in the slalom portion of the women's supercombined to win the bronze medal in the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics, Monday, Feb. 10, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia.(AP Photo/Alessandro Trovati)

  • United States' Julia Mancuso waves as she leaves the finish area after the downhill portion of the women's supercombined at the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics, Monday, Feb. 10, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. (AP Photo/Gero Breloer)

    United States' Julia Mancuso waves as she leaves the finish area after the downhill portion of the women's supercombined at the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics, Monday, Feb. 10, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. (AP Photo/Gero Breloer)

  • Women's supercombined bronze medalist United States' Julia Mancuso poses with the U.S. flag after a flower ceremony at the Alpine ski venue in the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics, Monday, Feb. 10, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. (AP Photo/Gero Breloer)

    Women's supercombined bronze medalist United States' Julia Mancuso poses with the U.S. flag after a flower ceremony at the Alpine ski venue in the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics, Monday, Feb. 10, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. (AP Photo/Gero Breloer)

  • United States' bronze medal winner in the women's supercombined Julia Mancuso embraces her sister Sara after a flower ceremony at the Alpine ski venue in the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics, Monday, Feb. 10, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)

    United States' bronze medal winner in the women's supercombined Julia Mancuso embraces her sister Sara after a flower ceremony at the Alpine ski venue in the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics, Monday, Feb. 10, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)

  • United States' Julia Mancuso waves as she leaves the finish area after the downhill portion of the women's supercombined at the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics, Monday, Feb. 10, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. (AP Photo/Gero Breloer)

    United States' Julia Mancuso waves as she leaves the finish area after the downhill portion of the women's supercombined at the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics, Monday, Feb. 10, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. (AP Photo/Gero Breloer)

  • Women's supercombined bronze medalist United States' Julia Mancuso, right,  celebrates while Germany's gold medalist Maria Hoefl-Riesch, left, waits to take the podium during a flower ceremony at the Alpine ski venue at the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics, Monday, Feb. 10, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
  • Bronze medal winner United States' Julia Mancuso celebrates finishing the slalom portion of the women's supercombined at the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics, Monday, Feb. 10, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)
  • United States' Julia Mancuso celebrates as finishes the slalom portion of the women's supercombined to win the bronze medal at the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics, Monday, Feb. 10, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. (AP Photo/Luca Bruno)
  • United States' Julia Mancuso passes a gate in the slalom portion of the women's supercombined to win the bronze medal in the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics, Monday, Feb. 10, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia.(AP Photo/Alessandro Trovati)
  • United States' Julia Mancuso waves as she leaves the finish area after the downhill portion of the women's supercombined at the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics, Monday, Feb. 10, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. (AP Photo/Gero Breloer)
  • Women's supercombined bronze medalist United States' Julia Mancuso poses with the U.S. flag after a flower ceremony at the Alpine ski venue in the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics, Monday, Feb. 10, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. (AP Photo/Gero Breloer)
  • United States' bronze medal winner in the women's supercombined Julia Mancuso embraces her sister Sara after a flower ceremony at the Alpine ski venue in the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics, Monday, Feb. 10, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)
  • United States' Julia Mancuso waves as she leaves the finish area after the downhill portion of the women's supercombined at the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics, Monday, Feb. 10, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. (AP Photo/Gero Breloer)

KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia – For years, Julia Mancuso’s skiing accomplishments – and there were many – were overshadowed by Lindsey Vonn’s.

When it comes to Olympic Alpine events, though, no American woman comes close.

Turning in a terrific run to lead after the downhill, then recovering from a rattling start in the slalom, Mancuso earned the bronze in the super-combined at the Sochi Games yesterday for her fourth medal at an Olympics. She already was the only U.S. female Alpine racer with more than two, which is Vonn’s total.

“Skiing and growing up with someone like Lindsey, who’s just amazing on the World Cup and breaking records left and right there – to have something that I can break records in at the same time is also fun and exciting for me,” said Mancuso, whose two-run time of 2 minutes, 35.15 seconds was 0.53 slower than champion Maria Hoefl-Riesch of Germany.

“If I can keep the Olympics as my thing, that’s fine,” Mancuso said, “and I’m really proud of it.”

It sure showed yesterday, the way she punched the air and screamed for joy after the slalom, did a jig on her step of the podium during the flower ceremony, then ran around with a U.S. flag, hugging family members.

She won the gold in the giant slalom at the 2006 Turin Games, then silvers in the super-combined and downhill at Vancouver in 2010. Only two other Winter Olympians from the U.S., speedskater Bonnie Blair and short track star Apolo Anton Ohno, have won individual medals at three editions of the games.

“She is everything you want your athletes to be,” said Bill Marolt, CEO of the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association. “She brings herself to her best possible level of preparation and puts it all out there.”

Only four women from anywhere own more Alpine medals than Mancuso, who can increase her total over the next two weeks, starting with tomorrow’s downhill. The record of six is shared by Croatia’s Janica Kostelic and Sweden’s Anja Paerson.

The 29-year-old Mancuso, who grew up in Squaw Valley, Calif., was asked what’s different about her when she’s in an Olympic start hut.

“I feel more nervous. It’s not nerves of failure, it’s just nerves,” she explained. “There’s just a lot of emotion and knowing that, ‘This is my chance. This is my shot.’ ”

At the 2010 Olympics, Vonn edged Mancuso in the downhill and added a bronze in the super-G. But because of recent knee surgery, Vonn is back in the U.S. this time around, commentating for NBC instead of competing.

While Vonn’s resume includes 59 World Cup race victories and four overall titles, Mancuso’s never enjoyed that sort of success. Mancuso has seven career World Cup wins, and really struggled this season, never better than seventh.

There were problems figuring which boots to use. There was the potential for a real crisis of confidence.

In December, she took time off to gather herself with an eye to the Olympics.

“You definitely start to doubt things, for sure. … The best thing we could have done is take a break for Christmas and New Year and then get back into it,” said Chris Knight, Mancuso’s personal coach on the U.S. team. “It was like pressing the reset button for her, and it has worked.”

Knight, who’s from New Zealand, also offered a theory for why Mancuso thrives at the Winter Games.

“She loves peaking for the big events. I mean, America doesn’t know what’s going on outside of the Olympics, right?” he said.

After Mancuso’s strong downhill yesterday morning gave her a nearly half-second lead on the field, she still had to deal with a steep slalom course, one that nine of 31 starters failed to complete in the afternoon. No small matter, given that it had been more than a year since she completed a full slalom.

And the last time she raced such a challenging slalom?

“It’s been a while,” U.S. women’s Coach Alex Hoedlmoser said with a laugh.

But with the lights along the Rosa Khutor course gleaming off her neon orange helmet, and a gold scarf tucked under her chin, Mancuso was good enough to sneak into the medals, 0.13 behind silver winner Nicole Hosp of Austria, and 0.10 ahead of fourth-place finisher Tina Maze of Slovenia, last season’s overall World Cup champion.

“It’s really inspiring,” U.S. teammate Leanne Smith said, “for everyone here to see how much of a gamer she is, every Olympics.”

SHORT TRACK SPEEDSKATING

At 29, Canada’s Charles Hamelin was the oldest skater in the first final of the short track competition. The wily veteran maintained a top-three position throughout most of the 14-lap race, leaving enough at the end to defeat a loaded field, including Russia’s Viktor Ahn and silver medalist Han Tianyu of China. Ahn was a three-time gold medalist for his native South Korea, but after missing the Vancouver Games he changed his name and became a Russian citizen. When he stepped on the medals podium, the mostly Russian crowd erupted in wild cheers.

SPEEDSKATING

The Netherlands’ Michel Mulder’s 500-meter speedskating victory earned him the title of fastest man on skates. Teammate Jan Smeekens was 0.01 seconds behind for silver, and twin Ronald Mulder took bronze in a Dutch sweep.

BIATHLON

Martin Fourcade’s win earned France its first medal. Ondrej Moravec of Czech Republic took the silver, and Jean Guillaume Beatrix of France earned bronze. Ole Einar Bjoerndalen of Norway finished fourth, missing out on a record 13th Winter Olympic medal.

MEN’S MOGULS

Alex Bilodeau became the Olympics’ first repeat winner in men’s moguls. Canadian teammate Mikael Kingsbury won the silver, giving the Canadians a 1-2 finish in both men’s and women’s moguls.

CURLING

The Norwegian men, curling’s fashion kings of cool, made their Sochi debut with another snazzy pattern on their pants -- a mixture of red, white, blue and gray squares and rectangles. Norway dazzled the U.S. 7-4, but the surprise of opening day was Switzerland’s upset of defending champion Canada. On the women’s side, Sweden defeated Britain 6-4 in a matchup of two favorites for the women’s curling gold.

ICE HOCKEY

The United States romped to a 9-0 victory over Switzerland to all-but clinch a spot in the Olympic women’s hockey semifinals. Canada topped Finland 3-0 to ensure its spot in the semifinals.

Related

Granite Staters in Sochi

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Hockey – Former Hanover resident Hilary Knight scored a goal and had an assist in Team USA’s 9-0 win over Switzerland. Skiing – North Conway’s LeAnne Smith was 20th after the downhill but did not finish her first run of slalom. Ski jumping – “Thanks to everyone for all the positive messages! I’m ready for the large hill!” - Andover’s …

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