World Cup skiing | Mancuso posts strongest season since 2008 | SierraSun.com

World Cup skiing | Mancuso posts strongest season since 2008

Sun Staff and U.S. Ski Team report

Photo by Mitchell Gunn Julia Mancuso in action during the women's giant slalom race at the FIS Alpine World Cup finals in Schladming, Austria, on Sunday. Mancuso finished fifth in the race and fourth in the overall standings.

SCHLADMING, Austria and#8212; Julia Mancuso of Squaw Valley capped her best season since 2008 when she fought her way to a fifth-place giant slalom finish in the final Audi FIS Alpine World Cup race Sunday, giving her fourth place in the overall standings.

Mancuso also was second in Thursdayand#8217;s super G to lead the American women at the Schladming, Austria, venue.

Teammate Lindsey Vonn, meanwhile, hoisted her fourth overall crystal globe in five seasons Sunday to close the World Cup Finals.

Mancuso and Vonn, as well as Truckee native Stacey Cook, also helped lead the U.S. women to the nationsand#8217; downhill title in dominant fashion. The American women beat runner-up Austria by a 636-point margin to defend the title they first secured in 2011.

Germanyand#8217;s Viktoria Rebensburg won Sundayand#8217;s race to capture the GS title for the second straight year. Mancuso, who had two victories and four other podium finishes this season, finished second in the super G standings, fifth in the downhill and ninth in GS.

and#8220;I needed that good result for my last giant slalom of the season. I have had a lot of moments where I was really right there and I just couldnand#8217;t get back into that top five,and#8221; Mancuso said of Sundayand#8217;s race. and#8220;I am excited to end strong and I had a solid effort. I got quite a few points, so I know I can improve on that. I am psyched that I could actually stay solid when it seemed nothing was going right for me in giant slalom.

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and#8220;Itand#8217;s also feels pretty special to have won a few races, been right there in Super G and had a strong downhill year. I know that I can be back on the overall podium and that gives me a lot of motivation for next season.and#8221;

Vonn was 16th in the final race after the first run and lost her bid for the 2,000-point mark when she lost a pole at the start of the second run and finished 24th. She ended up a career-best second in the GS standings.

Vonn, who was three points short of the overall in 2011, won the downhill, super G and combined titles for a historic 16 career globes and celebrated the all-time highest womenand#8217;s point total with 1,980 points. Her American-high 12 World Cup wins on the season pushed her career total to 53, putting her in the elite company with all-time record holder Annemarie Moser-Proell, who has 62, and Vreni Schneider, who has 55. Vonn now has 97 podiums in 305 World Cup starts.

and#8220;I am really happy with the season and it has gone incredibly well,and#8221; Vonn said. and#8220;If you had told me at the beginning of the season that I would be second in the giant slalom standings and would win the overall title before the finals, I would have said that is awesome, but not possible. It is definitely more than I expected.and#8221;

In the downhill, Vonn, Mancuso and Cook, as well as Alice McKennis, Laurenne Ross and Leanne Smith, combined for 1,417 points to runner-up Austriaand#8217;s 781. Aside from Vonnand#8217;s fifth consecutive downhill crown, Mancuso was fifth in the standings, Cook 10th, McKennis 20, Ross 22nd and Smith 25th.

and#8220;Our coaches deserve a lot of credit for having confidence in us and supporting us in ways that we donand#8217;t really see,and#8221; said Cook, who grew up in Truckee but now skis out of Mammoth. and#8220;Some mornings, theyand#8217;re on the hill before we get out of bed. They believe in us and it helps us to believe in ourselves. Itand#8217;s a special team.and#8221;

Added Mancuso: and#8220;Being fast is one thing, but enjoying skiing and being fast is another. As a team, I think we do both. We love skiing, we love being out on the mountain, we love traveling. Thatand#8217;s why weand#8217;re so comfortable spending more than half the year away from home. We love what we do.and#8221;

and#8220;This is an amazing team with an incredible amount of talent,and#8221; Vonn agreed. and#8220;Julia has won downhills, Stacey was in the top 10 almost all season and itand#8217;s only a matter of time before Alice, Laurenne and Leanne are fighting for podiums every race. Iand#8217;m incredibly proud of what weand#8217;ve been able to accomplish this season.and#8221;

The Nature Valley U.S. Alpine Championships begin March 29 at Winter Park Resort, Colo. The Audi FIS Alpine World Cup season goes on hiatus until October, with the GS opening in Soelden, Austria.