Julia Mancuso is only 20, but by her precocious standards, the bronze medal she unexpectedly won in Sunday's women's Super G at the world championships was overdue.
Mancuso was on skis at age two and enrolled in the Mighty Mites ski school in Squaw Valley, Calif., at three. "My parents would drop my sister and me off in the morning and pick us up at the big tree in the afternoon," she said on Sunday. "Always at the big tree." Mancuso skied a World Cup race at 15 (making her one of the youngest Americans ever to do so) and won a U.S.-record eight career medals at the world junior championships, including two in 2004.
On Sunday she started 16th among the top 30 racers in the world and upon finishing said bitingly, "I wasn't too pleased with my run." Scarcely half an hour later her time had held up for third place as some of the most accomplished racers in history (Renate Goetschl and Michaela Dorfmeister of Austria and Hilde Gerg of Germany) as well as rising star Lindsey Kildow of the U.S. had either strayed off course or skied slowly on a challenging and deceptively slick run. "Kind of weird," Mancuso said later, reconsidering her analysis. "I always figured at the Olympics or world championships, you had to ski perfect to medal. I guess not."
Mancuso, who is in the middle of a breakout season and ranks 12th in the women's overall World Cup standings with seven top 10 finishes, formulated her race plan while watching videotape on Saturday night. "I was watching some of my good races in [giant slalom] from earlier this year," she said. "And I've been skiing really aggressively, taking a really straight line. So I said to myself, I'm going straight tomorrow." Straight to the medal stand, as it turned out.
Competing in her first world championships, former whiz kid Mancuso showed she'll be an Olympic threat in '06.