Cheered by family and people from her hometown, and appropriately showing the love by wearing an ice blue ski suit with a map of Squaw Valley adorned on it, Julia Mancuso turned in the first women’s giant slalom podium finish by an American woman since 1981 on the pristine slopes of Aspen Mountain.
A proud Squaw Valley skier, Mancuso placed third Saturday behind Viktoria Rebensburg of Germany and Elisabeth Goergl of Austria. It was the 67th World Cup race on Aspen, which has a long history of ski racing that includes hosting the 1950 FIS world championships. But success for American skiers been historically lacking.
“Everyone always talks about curses and statistics, and as athletes we’re just trying to ski fast and hope you make the podium – or win,” Mancuso said after the race. “I’m really excited. I have a whole support crew from Squaw Valley here. It’s nice that I could get on the podium and give them a good show.”
Another nearby local product, Lindsey Vonn of Vail, wasn’t as fortunate. Bothered by the discomfort because of back pain, she finished 12th after winning the opening World Cup event in Soelden last month.
Mancuso, who won two silvers medals at the Vancouver Olympics and was the 2006 Olympic champion in giant slalom, captured her first GS podium since 2007 in front of a packed grandstand. Aspen is known as a tough mountain with lots of terrain changes, tricky snow and difficult light conditions.
“I really like Aspen. I think every time I’ve raced here, I’ve been really close to the top-10 or (in the) top-10. You just have to think about free skiing, not really look at the gates because there’s so much terrain,” Mancuso said. “It’s more about flowing, moving with terrain to the finish.”
Other American women on the podium at Aspen include Kristina Koznick (third place in slalom in 2000 and 2004), Tamara McKinney (1981 GS winner), Cindy Nelson (third place in 1981 downhill) and Kiki Cutter (1968 slalom, third place). Men’s podium finishers include Bode Miller (2001), Phil Mahre (1983 and 1984), Bill Johnson (1984) and Billy Kidd (1968).
This is the only stop in the U.S. for the women’s World Cup this season, so American skiers want success here when exposure is greatest.
“Everyone comes in here and is really nervous and just wants to ski really fast because their family’s here and their friends are here,” Mancuso said. “I wouldn’t say it’s necessarily more pressure, but there’s definitely more nerves. And it’s a difficult hill.”
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