Mon, Nov 27, 2006 - Page 19 News List

Mancuso unfazed after long series of setbacks

ONE COOL CUSTOMER Olympic gold medalist Julia Mancuso remains upbeat despite finishing seventh in this year's first World Cup giant slalom

AP , ASPEN, COLORADO

Julia Mancuso of the US skis her first giant slalom run at the FIS Alpine Skiing World Cup in Aspen, Colorado, on Saturday. Mancuso finished in seventh place.

PHOTO: EPA

It takes a lot to bother Julia Mancuso.

The pain in her right hip flared up again but the Olympic gold medalist, who finished seventh in the first World Cup giant slalom of the season on Saturday, just shrugged it off.

She slept on a concrete floor at the airport in Hawaii a couple of days before the event and arrived at the competition venue late, but it wasn't a big deal.

"None of that affected me, really. I just don't have enough runs under my belt," said Mancuso, who had surgery on her right hip in July to repair a torn labrum -- the fibrous cartilage that runs around the bony rim of the hip socket.

"It's my first race of the season. I haven't had many runs and today, second run, the course was a bit rutted so that was a bit difficult for me," she said.

Mancuso's relaxed demeanor has helped her deal with the problems that she seemingly always encounters on the World Cup circuit.

Last year she spent weeks racing in substitute boots because she forgot her custom-fit pair at the December races at Lake Louise, Canada. Boots are among the most important piece of equipment for racers.

"She was amazingly cool," teammate Resi Stiegler said. "I'd freak out if it were me."

This season, after the opening races in Austria were canceled due to a lack of snow, Mancuso opted to skip the slalom race in Finland in favor of training in Colorado.

She then took a five-day break in Hawaii, where she lives in the offseason.

But her idyllic holiday ended on a a frightening note when her flight to Denver for the Aspen races was turned back after the plane began "kind of tilting."

Mancuso was happy to spend "an extra day in paradise" until she ended up sleeping on the concrete floor at the Oahu airport and arrived in Aspen on Thursday, a day behind schedule.

"It wasn't comfortable and I only had a day here before race day," Mancuso said. "But hey, what can you do? That's life."

She also applies the same calm attitude to her hip problems, which have been going on for more than two years.

Although US women's coach Patrick Riml expects great things from Mancuso, 22, this season, the Lake Tahoe native feels this could be a transitional year for her.

"I just want to get through the season healthy. I'm looking for the win but I'm definitely not 100 percent in my hip," she said. "I went to a doctor before I came and told him I was in a bit of pain. He said it's basically a year before it's recovered so I have a little ways to go. You can't rush things."

Mancuso also is dealing with the headache of organizing a converted bus with a driver to travel the World Cup circuit.

Last season, emulating US skier Bode Miller, Mancuso began living in an RV during the competition season.

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