Mancuso has a shot at title
SIERRA NEVADA, Spain – Julia Mancuso is rested and ready to make a run at the crown, trying to become the first American woman to win the overall World Cup title since Tamara McKinney in 1983.Mancuso has an excellent chance of closing the gap on leader Renate Goetschl this weekend, with giant slalom and slalom races in this Spanish resort.She trails Goetschl by 98 points but is better at the technical gate disciplines than the Austrian, and Goetschl does not plan to enter the slalom. Goetschl has 1,001 points. Marlies Schild is second with 916, followed by Mancuso with 903 and Nicole Hosp with 859.Lindsey Kildow is fifth, but the American decided Wednesday to end her season early because of an injured right knee.Mancuso went home to Squaw Valley, Calif., for a week of rest after winning the silver medal at the world championships this month in Are, Sweden. She returned to Europe on Thursday.Chris Knight, the U.S. technical coach, didn’t think Mancuso would be slowed by jet lag.”I think she’ll be OK. Arriving and getting right into it is one way to handle it,” he said.Racing resumes Saturday with a giant slalom, the event Mancuso won at last year’s Turin Olympics. At the worlds, Mancuso led the opening leg of the GS but finished fifth after a poor second run.”Her form in GS is right there, you saw that winning the first leg at world championships,” Knight said. “I think in the second leg it was just fatigue.”Mancuso is hoping she has enough energy left to win the overall, but discussing her title possibilities are taboo.”She doesn’t like to know about those things and we don’t talk about it,” Knight said. “Look at Marlies Schild. Before the world championships she had a real grip on the overall and was really focused on it, and her form dropped right off.”I think if it comes down to World Cup finals and she (Mancuso) has a chance, then she’ll start thinking about it and will probably get nervous.”The World Cup circuit is racing in Sierra Nevada for the first time since the season finals in 1999. The world championships were held there in 1996 after being postponed the year before because of warm weather. In 2003, races were canceled again.It’s warm this time, with temperatures above freezing. It also rained Thursday, but better weather is forecast for the weekend.”The hill does suit (Mancuso). It depends on the snow conditions, though,” Knight said. “Hopefully, it will dry and freeze.”Mancuso’s chief challenger will be Hosp, the recently crowned GS world champion and the leader in the discipline in the World Cup standings.In Sunday’s slalom, Schild will attempt to bounce back from her upset loss to Sarka Zahrobska at the worlds and clinch the World Cup slalom title with two races to spare.Schild has won five of the six World Cup slaloms this season but managed to win only silver in Are. She can clinch the small crystal globe with a top-eight finish, or perhaps even worse depending on how her rivals fare.One such rival is Anja Paerson, the Swede who won five medals at her home championships.”She’ll be there,” Sweden team spokeswoman Kristina Andersson said. “She’s in her best form of the season. She’ll race as long as she feels OK.”Paerson had knee surgery during the offseason and has struggled in the gate disciplines this season, but her slalom in the bronze in Are marked a return to form.