American downhill skier Julia Mancuso comes into the 2014 Olympic Games on a cold streak.
However, history suggests she could be a force to be reckoned with once the action starts in earnest if she can put her recent past behind her.
Mancuso failed to reach the podium in any World Cup event leading up to the Games. She's only registered three top-10 finishes, and her highest finish this season was seventh place, according to David Leon Moore of USA Today.
Her season got off on the wrong foot with a horrible start at Beaver Creek where her best finish out of the events was 20th place. From there, her season spiraled.
"I let it get in my head and then I started making bad decisions," she said, via Moore. "Every race, it was something different. I was always questioning. I was never confident. Skiing's mental. It's a mental game up there. A lot of us know how to ski. Every single girl in the start gate can ski well, especially in the top group. It's about being mentally prepared and confident."
Yet this is the same woman who won three medals the past two Games, taking gold in the giant slalom in 2006 and silver in both the downhill and combined races.
Incredibly, Mancuso flew under the radar before both Games, while stars like Lindsay Vonn and Picabo Street garnered nonstop media attention. Yet when the dust settled, she had more success than either of them.
She's already the most decorated American woman in Olympic history, and the Squaw Valley, Calif., native has another chance to cement her legacy as the greatest female winter Olympian in U.S. history with another medal in 2014.
And as poor as her World Cup season has been—one of her worst ever—Mancuso appears to be on the verge of capturing her Olympic inspiration. U.S. ski team press officer Doug Haney elaborates:
Interestingly, the conditions could play a big role in any potential success.
“I know the kind of snow where I’ve done well, and this is definitely that snow,” Mancuso said, via Tim Layden of SI.com. “And I really like how I’m skiing right now.”
Confidence is a funny thing.
Athletes oftentimes go for what feels like aeons without it, struggling against themselves just as much as their competitors and their surroundings—much like what Mancuso has dealt with the past season.
Then, suddenly, and sometimes for what seems to be no good reason, it returns. And once that confidence returns, that athlete's natural abilities are allowed to shine through.
For Mancuso, it appears her confidence has returned. And given the way she's performed on the world's biggest stage in the past, nobody should be surprised if she shrugs off her recent failures in favor of a podium finish.
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