Golden girl Mancuso doesn’t slow down
March 14, 2006
By Erica Bulman
The Associated Press
ARE, Sweden – The Torino Olympics are over, but Julia Mancuso is still feeling the aftershocks.
Life for the Olympic giant slalom champion has been a whirlwind of racing, traveling, parties and television appearances. She has yet to make it home to show her gold medal to her family.
“Everybody wants to see it,” said the 22-year-old from Tahoe City. “But I have it with me. I’ve been skiing with it under my race suit – just kidding.”
Mancuso, jet-lagged after returning from New York late Sunday night, finished 26th in Monday’s downhill training session for the World Cup Finals, a startling 7.35 seconds off the pace set by leader Anja Paerson of Sweden.
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Paerson finished in 1 minute, 25.76 seconds on the WM Strecke – the site of next winter’s world championships. Only the top 25 skiers in each discipline are invited to the finals, along with the junior world champion.
“I got here last night. I thought I’d be OK. But I skidded the first turn and realized I wasn’t,” Mancuso said.
Mancuso competed in the races in Hafjell, Norway, immediately following the Olympics. She skipped a pair of slaloms in Levi, Finland, over the weekend in favor of a last-minute trip to New York.
“The Olympics are quickly forgotten,” said Mancuso, who made appearances on several television shows in New York. “It was worth it, to take advantage of getting a medal, to be able to be a role model for young girls.
“In the U.S., with all the hype of the Olympics, the team had such bad media. It was kind of a tough situation. It was the general consensus of the Olympics, not just skiing, that it was a little disappointing. The big moments were definitely awesome but a lot of times there was too much drama and a lot of negativity.”
The U.S. Alpine skiers collected only two medals instead of the eight they announced as their target. Ted Ligety was the surprise winner of the combined event.
Mancuso said she will compete at nationals in Sugarloaf Ski Resort, Maine, at the end of the month, before testing various ski brands.
Paerson’s slim chances of defending her overall title were given a small boost when Janica Kostelic withdrew from the final downhill. Paerson, the Olympic bronze medalist, trails Kostelic by 254 points, but there are only four races and 400 points still up for grabs.
Olympic downhill champion Michaela Dorfmeister, who won the World Cup downhill title and will retire after this week’s finals, was second, .19 seconds behind. Fraenzi Aufdenblatten of Switzerland was third.
Croatia ski team director Vedran Pavlek said the schedule of the finals was too tight for Kostelic, who is focusing on the three other events – super-G, giant slalom and slalom.
“She’s taking a little break. It’s just too many races for her right now, at the end of the season,” Pavlek said, adding that her health was “fine.”
The Croat sat out sick for two races at the Turin Games, but still won gold in combined and silver in super-G for a record four career Olympic golds.
Only the women’s overall and giant slalom titles remain up for grabs. Dorfmeister also has secured the super-G World Cup crystal globe.
The overall title is the only thing decided on the men’s side. Benjamin Raich clinched that globe with his fourth-place finish in Saturday’s slalom in Shiga Kogen, Japan.
The women’s and men’s final downhills are slated for Wednesday, the first day of the finals, which run through Sunday.
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