Mancuso trades in her skis for a Ferrari |

Mancuso trades in her skis for a Ferrari

Andrew Dampf, The Associated Press

SESTRIERE, Italy – U.S. Olympic medalist Julia Mancuso traded in her skis for a sports car one a day this week and got a helicopter sightseeing tour as a bonus.

Officials in Sestriere, the site of Mancuso’s giant slalom victory in the 2006 Turin Games, invited the Californian to the Ferrari factory in Maranello on Wednesday.

Mancuso is accustomed to whizzing down mountains at speeds in excess of 80 mph, but couldn’t pass up what she called a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”

“I was a test passenger,” Mancuso said. “The track was occupied, so we went out on the mountain roads. And I’m a pretty good driver, but I don’t think I would really trust myself with that nice of a car to drive it and have to dodge traffic, so I left that to the professional. It was pretty fast, and the noise was exhilarating – it sounds fast when you’re inside.”

U.S. women’s head coach Alex Hoedlmoser and teammate Leanne Smith joined Mancuso for the visit. Olympic downhill champion Lindsey Vonn is sponsored by Audi and couldn’t go.

The helicopter ride lasted about 90 minutes each way.

“I didn’t realize that it was so far away,” said Mancuso, who is popular in Italy because of her Italian roots. “I got a nice tour of Italy on the helicopter ride, so it was pretty fun.”

Mancuso is in Sestriere for downhill and super-combined races, but a snowstorm and thick fog have delayed racing for two days. The downhill has been postponed to Sunday and the super-combined tentatively slated for Monday.

Mancuso finished second in the downhill in Cortina last weekend in a bid for her her first World Cup victory in four years. Besides visiting the Ferrari factory, she’s been slalom training all week.

“I definitely feel like my races haven’t reflected the training, so I’m looking forward to finally getting a result,” she said. “It gives me confidence in the combined.”

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