ASPEN, Colo. — Olympic champion Julia Mancuso of Squaw Valley broke a seven-year jinx by taking third place with a pair of brilliant giant slalom runs at the Nature Valley Aspen Winternational in Colorado on Saturday.
Meanwhile on the men’s World Cup circuit, Squaw Valley skiers Marco Sullivan and Travis Ganong both recorded points with top-30 finishes in the season-opening downhill and super G in Lake Louise, Alberta, Canada, this past weekend. Teammate Bode Miller led the American men, placing ninth in both races.
For Mancuso, the podium finish marked her first in a GS race since December 2007. It also was the first U.S. podium in Aspen since Kristina Koznick was third in a slalom in November 2004 and the first U.S. women’s GS podium since Tamara McKinney’s win in 1981. McKinney, a fellow Squaw Valley product, was on hand to lend support.
“It’s so special to get back on the podium here in Aspen; my family is here, my Squaw Valley Fan Club is here and my Spyder speed suit from today has the Squaw Valley map on it,” Mancuso said. “Plus, my friend Tamara McKinney … was in the crowd. It’s just cool to celebrate with my family and friends.”
Mancuso posted a time of 2 minutes and 11.69 seconds, which was third to German Viktoria Rebensburg’s winning time of 2:11.25 and Austrian runner-up Elisabeth Goergl’s 2:11.58. Lindsey Vonn was the next American finisher, in 12th place with a time of 2:12.99.
“I’ve been wanting to ski really fast in GS and I had a couple of unlucky second runs last year, so this is just a great way to start,” Mancuso said. “I know now that with any start position, I can find my way onto the podium.”
Vonn struggled on her first run and finished 21st, but she used a strong second run to bring her up to 12th. While disappointed with the finish in front of her hometown crowd in Aspen, Vonn said she was happy to see Mancuso represent the U.S. team well.
“The crowd was great; they’re always so supportive here in Aspen. I’m really excited that Julia was able to put the U.S. back on the podium in our home race,” she said.
Swiss Didier Cuche began the defense of this 2010-11 downhill title with a win, as he posted a time of 1:47.28 to fellow countryman Beat Feuz’s 1:47.34. Hannes Reichelt of Austria was third in 1:47.36.
Miller, an early racer wearing Bib 9, fell behind the early leaders before almost inexplicably started making up time to take the lead. He eventually was bumped back to ninth place in a time of 1:48.01.
Sullivan raced to a 24th-place finish and Ganong came in 27th, while American Erik Fisher was just out of the points in 35th.
“At the start we were going, ‘Come on sun;’ instead we got wind,” Sullivan said of the race. “It was different for everybody. Some got a little head wind, some got a little tail wind. And then, for Reichelt, the sun was out.”
American Wiley Maple was 38th, Andrew Weibrecht 51st and Ryan Cochran-Siegle crashed out in his first World Cup start.
In Sunday’s super G, Miller again placed ninth in a race won by Norway’s Aksel Lund-Svindal, while Sullivan was 17th and Ganong 28th. Tommy Ford was 22nd and Weibrecht 30th as five Americans recorded World Cup points.
Lund-Svindal posted a winning time of 1:23.47. Cuche finished second in 1:23.70 and Adrien Theaux of France was third in 1:24.11. Sullivan finished in 1:25.28 and Ganong in 1:25.54.
The men now head to Beaver Creek, Colo., for the Audi Birds of Prey World Cup from Wednesday through Sunday.