Mancuso clutch again

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— Julia Mancuso did it again.

And frankly not one person should be surprised.

2014 Winter Olympics

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The Squaw Valley, Calif., skier is clutch. The bigger the spotlight and the larger the stage make Mancuso a Broadway performer on skis.

On Monday, in the women’s super combined event at the Rosa Khutor Alpine Center, Mancuso had the fastest downhill time and was able to hang on in the slalom, eventually earning a bronze.

Germany’s Maria Hoefl-Riesch defended her Vancouver gold, finishing in 2 minutes, 34.62 seconds. Austria's Nicole Hosp finished 0.40 seconds behind Hoefl-Riesch for silver while Mancuso was 0.52 behind.

For Mancuso, the bronze just added to her storied career.

While Lindsey Vonn dominates headlines and records on the World Cup, it’s hard to argue there is a better skier on the bigger stage than Mancuso.

Monday’s performance was Mancuso’s fourth Olympic medal, a record for American women. It was also her third consecutive Olympics medaling, something no woman ever has done.

“Looking at those types of things, and knowing it’s an amazing thing, is cool,” Mancuso said. “I mean skiing and growing up with someone like Lindsey, who is just amazing on the World Cup, 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. It’s a totally different thing. It’s a great accomplishment that I’m really proud of too.”

Mancuso crushed the downhill portion in the morning, making it down in 1:42.68, almost 1.04 seconds ahead of Hoefl-Riesch.

Hoefl-Riesch attacked the slalom, one of her strengths, posting the third fastest time. Already calling it her last Olympics, Hoefl-Riesch captured her fourth career gold medal.

"Everybody was expecting me to win and that made things difficult, but when I was at the starting gate, I thought about Vancouver and that helped cool my head off,” she said.

The slalom though isn’t Mancuso’s strength. She only had trained slalom a couple times leading into the event and hadn’t run a full slalom course since competing in the Meribel, France, super combined almost a year ago.

The slalom course was a skier-eater too. With warming temperatures, it claimed nine skiers in the tough upper and middle sections.

“It’s a very challenging hill itself,” U.S. women’s head ski coach Alex Hoedlmoser said. “With snow conditions being warm, it got easier. It would soften, and the surface would get hard again. They were always putting in chemicals, and the snow smears a bit. It’s a different feeling under the foot.”

The medal was America’s first in Alpine and should set Mancuso up as one of the favorites in Wednesday’s downhill.

“Think about what she did today to get this medal,” U.S. Ski Team CEO Bill Marolt said. “She’s a game-changer.”

To reach Luke Graham, call 970-871-4229, email lgraham@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @LukeGraham

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