KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia – If Julia Mancuso was bummed about not finishing her first run in Tuesday's giant slalom, she sure didn't show it. On a day shrouded in fog and soaked by rain, Mancuso's sunny outlook shone through.
Mancuso, 29, will leave these Games as the USA's most decorated female Olympic skier, with the door open for a return in 2018. "Being here and coming back from not a great race season kind of put things in perspective for me what skiing's about," she said. "Coming into these Olympics, I really wanted a medal, and I got bronze.
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"I for sure want gold. If I think if I can continue skiing well, especially on the speed side, and get to a place where I can still be fighting for gold medals . . . At the beginning of the season, I felt there was no way I'd come back. But after coming here and having that magical day, it makes me want to keep going."
Mancuso, of Squaw Valley, Calif., is not in Friday's slalom, so this was her last race here. After winning a bronze medal last week in the super combined, she now has four Olympic medals. She won a gold medal in the giant slalom at the 2006 Torino Games. She added two silver medals — in downhill and super combined — in Vancouver in 2010.
Mancuso had a rough start to the season and didn't crack the top 10 in a World Cup race until late January. She's had similar slumps heading into previous Olympics, but always came out with some hardware. When Mancuso is surrounded by five rings, magic happens.
She posted a picture of herself in the middle of one of those giant rings, shortly after the race. "I leave these games with a Bronze medal to make it 4 Olympic medals in my career, but what I cherish the most, are the memories and the smiles. Thanks for smiling with me," she wrote on Facebook, ending her message with a smiley face, of course.
Mancuso tends to see the world through rose-colored goggles. Even when she can't see through them much at all. As she headed into the first gate, she hit it straight on and water splashed onto her goggles. "I couldn't see much," she said, adding that she had to rely on feeling the rest of the race.
At the end of the run, her goggles came off and this much was clear: "I love to ski," she said, looking ahead to the next Games and perhaps more magic. "To watch Bode win another medal and have killer downhill training runs and be so close, that inspired me," she said about Miller, who at 36 won bronze in the super G.
"Who says what's a good age? You gotta go for it."