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Julia Mancuso gets super-combined bronze for U.S.

Julia Mancuso, the most successful U.S. female Alpine skier at the Games, finishes third in super-combined to give her four career medals. She also becomes just the third U.S. athlete to medal individually in three straight Winter Games.

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Julia Mancuso, the most successful U.S. female Alpine skier at the Games, finishes third in super-combined to give her four career medals. She also becomes just the third U.S. athlete to medal individually in three straight Winter Games.

KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia — For years, Julia Mancuso's skiing accomplishments — and there are many — have been overshadowed by Lindsey Vonn's.

When it comes to Olympic Alpine events, though, no American woman comes close to Mancuso.

Turning in a terrific run to lead after the downhill, then recovering from a rattling start in the slalom, Mancuso earned the bronze medal in the super-combined Monday for her fourth medal at an Olympics.

Mancuso, 30 next month, already was the only U.S. female Alpine racer with more than two medals, the total of Vonn and Picabo Street. She also became the third U.S. Winter Olympian to get an individual medal in three straight Games, following long-track speed skater Bonnie Blair and short-track skater Apolo Anton Ohno. Her four career medals are tied for second by an American women in any Winter Games sport, behind Blair's six.

"Skiing and growing up with someone like (Vonn), who's just amazing on the World Cup and breaking records left and right there — to have something that I can break records in at the same time is also fun and exciting for me," said Mancuso, whose two-run time of 2 minutes, 35.15 seconds was 0.53 slower than champion Maria Hoefl-Riesch of Germany. Austria's Nicole Hosp was second.

"If I can keep the Olympics as my thing, that's fine, and I'm really proud of it," Mancuso said.

It showed Monday. She punched the air and screamed for joy after the slalom, did a jig on her step of the podium during the flower ceremony, then ran around with a U.S. flag, hugging family members.

Mancuso won the giant slalom gold in 2006, then silvers in the super-combined and downhill in 2010. She can increase her total over the next two weeks, starting with Wednesday's downhill.

Mancuso was asked what's different about her when she's in an Olympic start hut.

"I feel more nervous. It's not nerves of failure, it's just nerves," she said. "There's just a lot of emotion and knowing that, 'This is my chance. This is my shot.' "

In 2010, Vonn edged Mancuso in the downhill and added a bronze in the super-G. But after a year of injuries and knee surgery, she is commentating for NBC this time instead of competing.

While Vonn's resume includes 59 World Cup victories and four overall titles, Mancuso has seven Cup wins in 15 years. She has really struggled this season, never finishing better than seventh. She had problems figuring which boots to use. In December, she took time off to gather herself with an eye to the Olympics.

"It was like pressing the reset button for her, and it has worked," said Chris Knight, Mancuso's personal coach.

After Mancuso's downhill gave her a nearly half-second lead on the field, she faced a steep slalom course. Mancuso had raced 15 slaloms since the 2010 Games. Her best finish was 20th.

At the starting gate, Mancuso told herself to stay calm.

"And I skied my heart out," she said. "Knowing in my heart that I can do it was kind of like crossing the finish line and say … believing in yourself really works."

Julia Mancuso gets super-combined bronze for U.S. 02/10/14 [Last modified: Tuesday, February 11, 2014 5:40pm]
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