Schleper claimed by GS course |

Schleper claimed by GS course

Shauna Farnell
Shauna FarnellVail skier Sarah Schleper didn't finish the GS run at the Olympics Friday, but she was excited for teammate Julia Mancuso, who grabbed gold.

SESTRIERE COLLE, Italy – When Julia Mancuso crossed the finish line to win gold Friday, she didn’t have to look far for peals of genuine congratulations.

While Lindsey Kildow opted out of Friday’s Olympic giant slalom race, Truckee’s Stacey Cook and Vail’s Sarah Schleper congratulated Mancuso with the first of many high fives after she saw the gold was hers.

Cook, a last-minute choice for the U.S. giant slalom team after an injured Kristina Koznick pulled out, put down the best result GS result of her career with a 23rd on Friday.

Schleper, who was in 12th place after the first run, was less than halfway down the ragged course in the second run when her skis got ahead of her.

Many racers had already ended up wearing gates when they couldn’t get their skis around them fast enough, and Schleper almost met the same fate. Instead, she took a sudden turn, plunged forward and ended up sliding down the course on her stomach in a cloud of snow.

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A split second later, she was back on her feet and hiking madly back up to the gate she’d missed. Heroic as it was, it was too late.

“I was taking the ‘do or die’ attitude,” Schleper explained later. “I think the intervals are kind of quick, so there wasn’t enough time for me to hike. I probably sat there and thought about it for too long.”

Schleper explained that the difficulty of the course, set by the father of Croatian super star Janica Kostelic, is telling of Mancuso’s talents.

“He likes to set it where the best skier wins. So he puts tricks in there and he set it off on those fallaways,” Schlep said. “I think that’s where Julia showed she’s the best skier today, and that’s great.”

Mancuso was confused as she was preparing for her run and trying to get a full report from Schlep.

“I was asking, ‘How do the rolls run at the bottom?’ and there was just silence,” Mancuso said. “I didn’t realize Sarah didn’t finish.”

The two laughed about it later.

“She’s like, ‘You didn’t make it to the bottom?’ I was wondering whey you didn’t tell me about the lower rolls,'” Schlep said. “I could only give her the report to the halfway down mark.”

Mancuso said Cook greeted her with a heartfelt, “I’m so happy for you,” and Schlep’s pride in her teammate was clear in her description of how Mancuso deals with pressure.

“I’ve never seen her crack under pressure. Not once,” Schlep said. “She always does well at championship events. She holds the lead and stays with the lead.”

Schleper mentioned how Mancuso’s season began on a rocky note. Her ski boots went MIA after the World Cup races in Lake Louise, Alberta, and it wasn’t until last month that Mancuso hit her stride and began putting down podium finishes.

“She peaked at the perfect time,” Schleper said. “She’s just pretty mellow, down to earth and she stays in the now. She doesn’t expect too much, but she wants it and goes after it and doesn’t hold anything back.”

Schlep, who is recovering from back surgery, is happy for her teammate’s upswing and said there’s more on the way.

“Everything is coming together for her,” Schleper said. “We have a lot more potential to come, too.”

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