Bright beginningsBrought up in the Sierra Nevada (USA), Julia Mancuso first took to the slopes at Squaw Valley Ski Resort, showing terrific promise across all of the Alpine events. A few months after she turned 15, in 1999, she competed in her first FIS World Cup race. In 2001, the versatile American bagged her first World Cup points in the super-G and slalom, before making her Olympic debut as a 17-year-old at Salt Lake City 2002, where she finished 13th in the combined.
However, it was at the FIS Junior World Ski Championships that she truly laid down a marker, claiming gold medals in the downhill, giant slalom and combined in Tarvisio (ITA) in 2002 and in the super-G in Puy-Saint-Vincent (FRA) in 2003. The following year, she again prevailed in the combined event in Maribor (SLO), taking her junior medal haul to eight (including five golds), a record for an American skier.
Olympic breakthroughEven prior to making her first World Cup podium appearance, Mancuso had already demonstrated her ability to perform under pressure by landing two bronze medals (giant slalom and super-G) at the 2005 FIS Alpine World Ski Championships in Bormio (ITA). Indeed, her first senior victory came under the most intense of spotlights, as she secured an unexpected Olympic giant slalom gold at Turin 2006.
Double silver in VancouverFollowing that surprise success, Mancuso continued to impress, earning top-three World Cup finishes in downhill, super-G, giant slalom and combined, and winning a silver medal in the super combined at the 2007 World Championships in Åre (SWE). At the Vancouver Games in February 2010, she clinched two runners-up spots in 24 hours, making it an American one-two with Lindsey Vonn in the downhill, and subsequently finishing just under a second behind Germany’s Maria Riesch in the super combined.
Record medal countWhile Mancuso boasts a relatively small number of successes (seven victories and 35 podiums from 379 starts) on the World Cup circuit over her 15-year career, she has tended to reserve her best performances for the biggest stages. At the 2013 World Championships in Schladming (AUT), the confident American won a silver in super-G, her fifth medal at that level, while at Sochi 2014 she dominated the downhill leg of the super combined competition at the Rosa Khutor Alpine Resort to pick up a well-deserved bronze. That achievement, which she greeted with a shriek of joy, saw her amass more Olympic medals than any other female American Alpine skier. “At the Games, anything is possible. You just have to believe in yourself,” she says.