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I beat Julia Mancuso once. I was 17 years old and it was a slalom race at Boreal Ski Resort near Lake Tahoe. I placed first and Julia placed eighth—I saved the printed results, in fact, because I had a hunch that they might be worth some bragging rights one day (Julia was a superstar even then, at age 15). What the results don’t tell, of course, is that Julia missed a gate on her first run and had to hike uphill about 20 feet in order to not be disqualified. And then on her second run, she beat the entire field (and most of the boys) by multiple seconds. All of this is to say: I’m not in the least bit surprised that today, Julia, now 25, became the most decorated female ski racer ever.
On Wednesday, the Squaw Valley, California native placed second in downhill behind her teammate Lindsey Vonn. And today, Mancuso nabbed another silver in the super combined, which combines the speed of a downhill run with the technical style of a slalom run. After a strong downhill run, Vonn crashed in the slalom portion of the race. German Maria Riesch won the gold medal.
Slalom hasn’t been Mancuso’s strong point lately, but that didn’t seem to matter today. “My coach kept saying, ‘You’ve got to just keep doing it, just keep going on,’ no matter how frustrated I got in all the fall races,” Mancuso told reporters after the race. “I’ve been starting with, like, bib 60. It’s pretty hard to put a stellar run down when you’re starting way back. But my training has been really good and I proved today I could do it.”
In my eyes, Julia proved long ago that she could do it—she’s always been the best (even when I beat her). But I’m glad that she proved that to the rest of the world today.