Mancuso off to hot start | SierraSun.com

Mancuso off to hot start

U.S. Ski Team reports

Carrying the momentum of the best U.S. women’s season since 1984, Olympic champion Julia Mancuso of Olympic Valley tore through the icy second run of giant slalom Saturday to open the 2008 Audi FIS Alpine World Cup season with a second-place finish.

Mancuso ” who finished third a year ago in the World Cup overall standings for the best U.S. women’s showing since Hall of Fame skier Tamara McKinney in 1984 ” was 12th in the first run on the Rettenbach Glacier course. She had the third-fastest second run to finish in a combined time of 2:23.54. Italy’s Denise Karbon won in 2:23.21.

Soelden has been holding the first race of the World Cup season since 1993, and annually since 1999. The best previous U.S. women’s result on the glacier was Kristina Koznick’s fourth in October 2004. It is considered the steepest, toughest GS course the women will face all season.

“I just needed a kick in the butt after that first run. I kind of wimped out there,” Mancuso said with a laugh. “But I threw out my game plan and just went for it on that second run. I know I’m skiing well, so I took some risks and went for it all the way.”

Most of the top-30 skied in the shade on the first run, but it got difficult during the final run as the sun and clouds played tricks on the field.

“The shadows were just creeping over the mountains when I went,” Mancuso said, “and I took the opportunity and made it an advantage for me.

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“It was icy on the top, then the pitch was a little icy, too, but it was good. I skied better on the pitch than I ever have.”

She said the crowd’s energy helped enliven the race.

“The Austrians really love their ski racing and it’s a great atmosphere,” she said.

Mancuso, a crowd favorite for several seasons with her let’s-have-fun approach to racing, paused for countless photos after the race and following the traditional press conference. “It’s fun to feel the energy,” she said.

Women’s Slalom/GS Head Coach Chris Knight was pleased with Mancuso’s opening race.

“We had a pretty good day and we’re certainly super psyched about it. But I don’t agree that ‘Jules’ wimped out on her first run,” Knight said. “She skied really well; she had two mistakes and that cost her. But to go from 12th to second shows how well she’s skiing right now. Her technique may not have been perfect but her determination and drive brought her home with a great result.”