Mancuso skiing into McKinney’s tracks | AspenTimes.com

Mancuso skiing into McKinney’s tracks

Andrew Dampf
The Associated Press
Aspen, CO Colorado

U.S. racer Julia Mancuso takes off her bib in the finish area during training for Saturday's World Cup women's downhill, in San Sicario, Italy. She is poised to take the lead in overall World Cup standings with a strong showing. (Armando Trovati/AP)

SAN SICARIO, Italy – Julia Mancuso is poised to take the lead in the overall World Cup standings on the slopes that hosted the Turin Olympics.

If she pulls it off this weekend, an experienced friend may help her stay there. Tamara McKinney, the last and only American woman to win the overall title in 1983, is one of Mancuso’s role models.

Mancuso grew up skiing in Squaw Valley, Calif., where McKinney lives.

“She’s a good friend of mine and she’s always inspiring,” Mancuso said Thursday after placing ninth during downhill training. “She has a little real estate office in Squaw, and I always walk by and stop in. I’ve known her for a long time.”

Mancuso is on a record streak of five straight top-three finishes, eclipsing McKinney’s American mark of four straight in 1983. She has won two races during the streak and has three victories overall this season.

Mancuso is within 87 points of leader Marlies Schild in the overall standings, sitting in third place. Schild leads with 881 points, followed by Austrian teammate Nicole Hosp with 828.

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Two super-Gs and a downhill are scheduled for this weekend, and Mancuso is a better speed skier than the two Austrians.

“I just remember to take it one mountain at a time, live life like that, one day at a time,” Mancuso said. “I’m in the present. You have to do well in every race. Then when it comes to World Cup finals, you’re either there or you’re not.”

Mancuso won the giant slalom at the Turin Olympics, and said the accomplishment can’t be eclipsed.

“Winning that, with my friends and my family, how emotional it was and how it touched their lives, you just can’t replace that,” she said. “We have too many World Cups to make the feeling anywhere close to being similar.”

Renate Goetschl of Austria led the training session. She won the overall title in 2000, but has never done better than silver at the Olympics.

“For me, the overall is more (important), because you have to ski the whole season really good,” Goetschl said. “It’s like in Formula One. You have to win races and be the best after the season, and then you are world champion. One race, one day, you never know what will happen.”

U.S. women’s coach Patrick Riml doesn’t even want to think about the overall totals at this point.

“That’s not what’s important right now. If you start calculating points, you lose the focus on your skiing,” Riml said.

American Lindsey Kildow is the other skier to watch this weekend.

At last year’s Olympics, Kildow crashed in downhill training. She said the current terrain of the course is so different that, “it’s kind of like a totally different course.”

Kildow also crashed in her last two downhills, and dropped from first in the discipline standings to third behind Goetschl and Mancuso. Goetschl leads with 425 points, Mancuso has 346 and Kildow has 340.

Before her crashes, Kildow had a 115-point lead.

“Next year, if I have a 115-point lead, maybe I should tone it down instead of trying to win by 1 1/2 seconds,” Kildow said.

Kildow skipped a giant slalom in Cortina last weekend to rest her bruised body.

“I feel a little bit revamped and re-energized for the next few weeks,” she said.

The racing begins Friday with a super-G that was moved from Altenmarkt because of poor conditions in the Austrian resort earlier this month. The downhill will be held Saturday, followed by another super-G Sunday.

Two-time overall champion Anja Paerson is skipping the weekend to prepare for the World Championships that begin next week in Are, Sweden.

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