ROSA KHUTOR, Russia (Feb. 10) Julia Mancuso (Squaw Valley, Calif.) produced a true champion performance Monday, becoming the first American skier in history to win a medal in three straight Olympic Winter Games with her bronze in a tricky super combined event at the Rosa Khutor alpine center.
Mancuso skied into the lead in the downhill portion and then ripped up the slalom that bumped nine skiers off course, finishing third behind gold winner Maria Hoefl-Riesch of Germany and silver winner Nicole Hosp of Austria.
"I was just kind of amazed," Mancuso said. "As you know, it's been a really tough season for me, and I've always just had that real belief that I can do it. So putting out these dreams and beliefs that I can come out here and have a medal and everyone being a little skeptical and just knowing in my heart that I can do it was kind of like crossing the finish line saying, 'See it works! Believing in yourself works! I got a medal today!'"
Leanne Smith (North Conway, N.H.) finished 20th in the downhill but could not finish her run on the impressively steep and icy slalom course. Stacey Cook (Mammoth Mountain, Calif.) and Laurenne Ross (Bend, Ore.) did not finish the downhill.
Mancuso and the U.S. women will be back to take on downhill on Wednesday, Feb. 12.