KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia — Maybe Julia Mancuso would have felt differently had she not trained so sublimely for the women’s downhill, had she not so dominated the downhill portion of the women’s super combined Monday. But because of that, the American ski racing veteran, already with four Olympic medals to her name, came Wednesday to the Rosa Khutor Alpine Center with hopes — realistic, attainable hopes — of adding to that total.
“That gave me a lot of confidence going into today,” Mancuso said.
But at the top of the course she skied so well Monday, the anchor of her bronze-medal winning performance in the super combined, Mancuso took a poor angle into a jump and caught too much air. The result: lost speed at the moment, and an altered approach from that point forward. A medal almost immediately slipped away, and Mancuso finished eighth.
“I lost focus a little bit after that jump, and [was] thinking too much,” Mancuso said. “. . . I’m more of an instinct skier, and just thinking too much kind of takes me out of my game, and I forget what to do with my body. It needs to come more natural, and that’s when I ski better.”
Mancuso’s time of 1 minute, 42.28 seconds was 0.99 of a second behind champions Tina Maze of Slovenia and Dominique Gisin of Switzerland, who became the first Alpine skiers to tie for Olympic gold. But it was also 0.89 of a second behind bronze medalist Lara Gut, well out of medal contention.
Skiing 12th of 41 racers, Mancuso was fourth when she finished her run — sucking any drama out of the day for the American team. By that point, the three other Americans — Jackie Wiles, Laurenne Ross and Stacey Cook — had raced. They ended up 26th, 11th and 17th, respectively.
“I think over the last few Olympics with Lindsey [Vonn] and Julia, we’ve had the luxury of having that consistency,” Cook said. “And it’s not always going to be there.”
Keys to the skis
Mancuso, though, expected it to be there, and she had every right to. The conditions Wednesday were again favorable for her — relatively warm, creating the kind of soft snow through which she prefers to carve her turns. But after that error — in which she stuck to her plan, only to discover that it was faulty — she couldn’t catch up. After leading at the first timing interval, she lost time to Gisin, who started four spots earlier, at each split.
This, though, marked only the halfway point of Mancuso’s Olympics. She will ski the super-G Saturday, a race for which there are no training runs — unlike on the downhill course, on which the women could have had as many as five tries. That might play into her more improvisational style, Mancuso suggested.
The giant slalom lies beyond that next week. Win a medal in either, and she would tie Bode Miller’s current total of five, the most for any American Alpine racer.
“I’m moving on,” Mancuso said. “I don’t really have many emotions. I’m disappointed, but I can’t go back and do it again. I just want to remember it for the super-G.
“It’s kind of like I’ve had a really great race. The ‘super combi’ was amazing and unbelievable for me, and now I had a downhill where I wasn’t able to be in my best state of mind or body. I really didn’t perform how I wanted to, and kind of take that and learn for the super-G. Kind of reset. I really just want to hit the reset button.”