2010 Olympics: Silver medal no surprise to Mancuso | SierraSun.com

2010 Olympics: Silver medal no surprise to Mancuso

Nate Peterson

Alessandro Trovati/AP PhotoJulia Mancuso of Squaw Valley earned the silver medal in Wednesday's women's downhill at the Vancouver 2010 Olympics.

WHISTLER, B.C. and#8212; The one person least surprised by her silver medal here in downhill on Wednesday was Julia Mancuso herself.

and#8220;I’ve always just known that I would get a medal here,and#8221; Mancuso said. and#8220;I love the Olympics. My big goals have always been in the Olympics. I’ve just stayed really positive, and just really believed, no matter what is going on around me, just knowing that I have the ability to be on the podium.and#8221;

What’s gone on around Mancuso the past two winters has been a string of nagging injuries and the coronation of teammate Lindsey Vonn as the best female skier in U.S. history.

It wasn’t a great place to be, after a breakout 2007 season where Mancuso earned four World Cup wins, 10 podiums and challenged for the women’s overall crown up until the final weekend of the schedule.

Last winter, Mancuso, fighting a bad back that sapped her of mobility and energy, failed to earn a single podium, while Vonn was dominant throughout, claiming her second overall and two World Championship golds. The middling results for Mancuso fed into low expectations for her heading into this season, despite the fact that she already had one more Olympic medal than Vonn and#8212; a gold from the 2006 Turin giant slalom.

Mancuso said the added pressure on Vonn allowed her to focus on getting healthy in the offseason and then dialing in her equipment once she hit the snow this fall.

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On Wednesday, it all came together.

and#8220;Just standing in the start gate, that was finally the only one moment of calm,and#8221; she said. and#8220;I was so nervous last night, and I was really nervous this morning, and I really couldn’t eat anything. I had to force myself to eat. I’m just psyched I was able to go out there and stick to my game plan.and#8221;

Mancuso added that the bumps on course, which caused a number of skiers trouble, were to her liking. It was the kind of variable terrain she grew up skiing at Squaw Valley.

and#8220;I definitely saw some of the girls backing off, and complaining about the bumps,and#8221; she said. and#8220;I was embracing them. I love this course. It’s difficult, fast, the snow is hard and I just knew I could go out there and put my all into it.”

Vonn said Wednesday that she wasn’t surprised to see Mancuso back on the podium. She added that her husband relaying up the mountain, via radio, just how well Mancuso had skied focused her before she pushed out of the gates six spots later.

and#8220;I did expect her to do well,and#8221; Vonn said. and#8220;She was second in the training run, and she was fast here two years ago when we had the race here. She’s definitely a big-game skier.and#8221;

Mancuso certainly has earned that reputation. At 25, she now has two Olympic medals, with the chance of winning more at these Olympics.

While her and Vonn’s careers have peaked at different times, she said Wednesday it was nice to be back in the same spot together.

and#8220;It’s really cool,and#8221; she said. and#8220;I know Lindsey had a lot of pressure coming into these races, and I think the worst thing is for athletes to choke under pressure. For her to be able to rise above that and ski a really great race is just really inspiring to everyone. and#8230; Being on the podium, it’s kind of two different stories, but we’re there together and we’re both representing the U.S. and we’re both really proud to be doing that.and#8221;