American Alpine skier Julia Mancuso has a penchant for coming up big on the Olympic stage, but it wasn't meant to be on Tuesday as she failed to medal in the giant slalom at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.
Sports Illustrated's Tim Layden provides the news:
Julia Mancuso 1st run DNF in GS. Olympics over. Lost mojo after combi bronze, but that medal was epic.— Tim Layden (@SITimLayden) February 18, 2014
Mancuso wasn't in great form leading up to the Olympics, but expectations grew due to her early success in Sochi. Mancuso hadn't finished better than 12th in the giant slalom during the current World Cup season, and she was unable to overcome her struggles in that event.
She talked about her run via John Meyer of The Denver Post:
Definitely with the snow surface not being consistent, and you can't really see it, it's hard with timing. I was just losing my timing a few times. I thought I skied the first few gates pretty good, tried to let it run, then I got off line so I knew I had to kind of carry my speed. It's pretty flat to the end. i just caught a really soft spot and it twisted me.
When asked about her future, she left the door open for a return down the line, according to Peggy Shinn of TeamUSA.org:
DNF for @JuliaMancuso in GS. So ends her 2014 Olympics. But there might be another in 2018. "I love to ski, so we'll see."— pegmcshinn (@pegmcshinn) February 18, 2014
Mancuso then took to Twitter to thank all of her fans:
That's a wrap for me here in Sochi. It's been inspiring! Thanks for all the support and Love! #GoUSA!!! Now I get to celebrate my Bronze!!!— Julia Mancuso (@JuliaMancuso) February 18, 2014
Mancuso's last major medal win in the giant slalom prior was gold at the 2006 Winter Games in Turin, Italy. Her success in that event hasn't really been there over the past eight years, so close followers of Mancuso's career likely knew that a medal in the giant slalom would have been an overachievement.
While Mancuso was viewed as the best hope for Alpine skiing success among American women with Lindsey Vonn on the shelf, there weren't necessarily big expectations for her in Sochi. Mancuso didn't have anything better than a seventh-place finish in World Cup competition, so nabbing one medal at the Olympics is a major upset in a lot of ways.
Mancuso's lone Sochi medal came in the super combined after she dominated the downhill portion. Despite not having competed in slalom all season long, Mancuso held her own in that discipline as well to remain on the podium. Mancuso fell short in the ensuing downhill and super-G events as well as the giant slalom, but her place in Olympic history was already secured.
According to NBC Sports on Twitter, Mancuso's fourth career medal cemented her as the most successful American female Alpine skier in Olympic history:
Julia Mancuso extends her lead as the most decorated U.S. Olympic female skiier with four Olympic medals (Lindsey Vonn has two) #Sochi2014— NBC Sports (@NBCSports) February 10, 2014
Also, her bronze in the super combined put her in elite company in terms of capturing a medal of each color, per Infostrada Sports:
Julia Mancuso (USA) wins bronze and becomes the fourth female alpine skier to complete a set of medals (G-S-B) at the Winter Games.— Infostrada Sports (@InfostradaGold) February 10, 2014
Following her medal in the super combined, Mancuso was unable to reach the podium in the downhill or the super-G. Her eighth-place finish in super-G was actually a success considering her issues in that discipline recently, and Mancuso seemed happy to just finish her run after so many fellow skiers crashed out, according to Elliott Almond of the San Jose Mercury News:
The super-G takes confidence, and watching some of these people go down and have bad runs, it kind of took me back a notch ... I could have been more on the limit, but you still want to finish ... Everyone is still looking big picture. Everyone is good at putting things in perspective.
Perhaps the "big picture" included a strong showing in the giant slalom. Mancuso's comments suggest that she was interested in self-preservation during the super-G considering how difficult of a race it was, but that decision still wasn't enough to get her on the podium on Tuesday.
Will Mancuso return for the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics?
With one medal in Sochi, Mancuso has now won four over the past three Winter Olympic Games.
Mancuso's giant slalom run was far from ideal, but she has to be happy about leaving Sochi with one medal in tow. Mancuso is now 29 years of age, so it is possible that we have seen her Olympic swan song, although it wouldn't be wise to count her out of the 2018 Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea, quite yet.
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