KRASNAYA POLYANA — Julia Mancuso again lived up to her reputation as a big-event racer Monday and added to her illustrious career at major ski championships.
Mancuso, 29, won her fourth Olympic medal by taking the bronze in the women's super-combined in spring-like conditions that she is accustomed to back home at Squaw Valley, Calif., the site of the 1960 Winter Olympics.
No other American female skier — not Lindsey Vonn (who is not competing here because of recent knee surgery), not former great Picabo Street — has more than two Olympic medals.
Vonn is second on the all-time World Cup women's victories list with 59, to Mancuso's seven. But the Olympics have become Mancuso's place to shine.
Only four women skiers in history have more Olympic medals than Mancuso's four — Croatia's Janica Kostelic and Sweden's Anja Paerson with six, and Switzerland's Vreni Schneider and Germany's Katja Seizinger with five.
She joins speedskaters Bonnie Blair and Apolo Ohno as the only American Winter Olympians to win individual medals at three Games.
"It's pretty cool," Mancuso said of her place in Olympic history. "Skiing and growing up with Lindsey, who's just amazing on the World Cup and breaking records left and right there, to have something that I can break records in at the same time is fun and exciting for me. It's a totally different thing, but these are great accomplishments that I'm really proud of. I feel like in our own ways, we have such strengths, and it's cool to be a part of that."
The super-combined consists of a morning downhill run and, four hours later, an afternoon slalom run. Mancuso, who won the silver medal in this event in Vancouver four years ago, dominated the morning downhill, winning by almost half a second. But she was considered in jeopardy of failing to finish with a medal because she rarely trains slalom, a tricky discipline that takes precise movements. In fact, Mancuso hadn't raced in a slalom all season.
She struggled on the top part of the difficult, steep slalom course, which nine women failed to finish, but she charged at the bottom just hard enough to hang on to third place, behind gold medalist Maria Hoefl-Riesch of Germany and silver medalist Nicole Hosp of Austria.
"To be honest, I thought I was blowing it in slalom," Mancuso said. "But I knew to just fight to the finish, because you have no idea. I'm sure it was one of those courses where everyone didn't feel great. Crossing the finish line, just seeing my name in the top three, it didn't even matter that I could have been better. All that mattered was crossing the finish line with a solid run.
"Of course, getting another medal is really a dream come true."