Wednesday, February 8, 2006

Mancuso on a roll in pre-Olympic races

World Cup closes down for a month, Olympics next

Express Staff Writer

Two-time Olympian Julia Mancuso, 21, of Squaw Valley (Ca.) is going to think kindly about the slopes of Cortina d'Ampezzo after her breakthrough World Cup results in three pre-Olympic races on the slopes of the Italian resort Jan. 27-29.

Sixth-year U.S. Ski Team racer Mancuso had a brilliant weekend—claiming her first-ever World Cup podium with a second place in Friday's women's super giant slalom and duplicating the silver medal feat in Saturday's Cortina downhill.

Mancuso, the 2005 World Championship bronze medalist in SG and GS at Santa Catarina, Italy, stayed hot with a fifth place in the Jan. 29 giant slalom, again the top American.

Her performance just two weeks away from the start of the 2006 Winter Olympics at Turin, Italy gave the American women two legitimate medal hopes. Native Minnesotan Lindsey Kildow, 21, of Vail is the other. Kildow placed third in the Cortina SG and ninth in the DH.

Mancuso continued her progress with a third place in the women's giant slalom Feb. 4 at Ofterschwang, Germany. She is currently in ninth place in the overall standings.

Among women, World Cup overall leader Janica Kostelic, 23, of Croatia (1382) stretched her lead to 261 points over two-time defending World Cup queen Anja Paerson, 24, of Sweden (1121).

In third place is 32-year-old Michaela Dorfmeister of Austria (1062). Kildow (707) is seventh while Mancuso (615) is alone in ninth. Last year, Mancuso finished ninth in the overall standings with 659 points while Kildow was sixth with 914.

Mancuso's downhill silver at the Cortina site of the 1956 Winter Olympics coincided with the best-ever World Cup result posted by her boyfriend, newly-named Olympian Steve Nyman, 23, of Orem, Utah. Nyman was fourth in the Kandahar DH Jan. 28 at Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germ.

Another American made news when 28-year-old Scott Macartney of Crystal Mountain, Wash. placed second in Sunday's Garmisch SG.

In other ski team news: Tenth-year U.S. Ski Team racer Caroline Lalive, 26, of Steamboat Springs, Colo. returned to the U.S. Jan. 27 for knee surgery. She was injured Jan. 25 during DH training at Cortina. A two-time Olympian, she will not compete at the Turin Olympics.

And 28-year-old Bode Miller, the reigning World Cup overall king, virtually conceded this year's title by pulling out of the men's speed races at Garmisch two weekends ago. It ended Miller's unprecedented streak of 136 consecutive World Cup starts dating to the 2002 World Cup finals.

The last race he skipped was just after he won two silver medals at the 2002 Salt Lake Games. Miller came back to the tour Friday and earned a third-place podium in the one-day super combined at Chamonix, Fra.

In the meantime, the Jan. 27-29 races were a showcase for World Cup veterans Hermann Maier, 33, and Renate Goetschl, 30, both of Austria.

Maier won his 53rd World Cup race—second only to the great Ingemar Stenmark's 86—by winning the Kandahar DH. Goetschl has 38 career wins after her first-of-the-season victory in the Cortina DH. She is third on the all-time career World Cup victory list.

Bringing World Cup men's standings up to date, Austria's Benjamin Raich, 27, increased his overall point total to 1065 points with his super combined victory at Chamonix.

In second place with 820 points is Michael Walchhofer of Austria, who is first in DH. Miller's super combined bronze bumped him up to third place in the overall standings (748 points with placings 7th-DH, 27th-SG, 6th-GS, 2nd-combined). Maier (735) dropped down to fourth place.

Fifth place, now 338 points behind Raich, still belongs to Daron Rahlves with 727 points (3rd-DH, 6th-SG, 10th-GS).

Isolated fog that canceled Saturday's downhill at Chamonix—the last men's World Cup downhill before March's World Cup finals—did a number on Rahlves' chances of overtaking Walchhofer for the downhill title. Walchhofer has 498 downhill points and Rahlves 408.

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