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First Alps, then Kilimanjaro for Mancuso

Graham Dunbar
Associated Press Writer
Vail, CO Colorado
AP Photo/Keystone, Olivier MaireJulia Mancuso clears a gate during the women's Alpine Skiing World Cup downhill training in Crans-Montana, Switzerland, Thursday.
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CRANS-MONTANA, Switzerland ” Julia Mancuso is all too familiar with the Alps. Soon comes Africa, and a different sort of mountain.

But first, the Olympic giant slalom champion wants at least one World Cup victory in the last six races in hopes of salvaging what is so far a winless season. Then she can start preparing to scale Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania this summer.

“At this point I’m looking to win a race,” said Mancuso, who will ski a downhill Saturday in the Swiss Alps. “That would be a really great accomplishment for me this season.”



After winning four World Cup races last season, expectations were high for another big year from the Squaw Valley, Calif., skier who turns 24 on Sunday.

“There have definitely been downs but all in all I’ve learned a lot,” Mancuso said Friday after taking a first look at a remodeled Crans-Montana hill that is staging its first World Cup race in 10 years. “There is an abundance of time and an abundance of races in the future so I’m not really worried about it.”

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Mancuso said she felt uncomfortable at the top of the course Friday and stood upright part way down the 1.64-mile slope.

An Italian was again fastest in training, with Nadia Fanchini improving on her second place behind teammate Daniela Ceccarelli on Thursday.

American Lindsey Vonn was second, 0.6 seconds back, although she was technically disqualified for missing a gate.



“It was pretty bumpy all the way down. I was happy with it, as I don’t really do great runs in training,” said Vonn, who hopes to write two new chapters of U.S. ski history in the closing days of the season.

She is looking for her 10th career World Cup downhill win ” either on Saturday or at the World Cup finals next week in Bormio, Italy ” which would break her out of a tie with Picabo Street and Daron Rahlves.

Vonn also leads the overall standings ahead of Austria’s Nicole Hosp, and could become the first American woman to win the overall World Cup title since Tamara McKinney in 1983.

For Mancuso, Bormio’s giant slalom and super-G next week represent her best chance of getting to the top of the podium.

“There have been some ups and downs in my season so I’m excited to keep pushing for the best in the next races,” she said.

After the season, Mancuso will go right into a fitness program designed to cope with the rigors of hiking up Africa’s highest peak. Mancuso and British skier Chemmy Alcott hope to conquer 19,340-foot Kilimanjaro in June and raise at least $40,000 for the Right To Play organization.

“We’re going to push ourselves to a new limit by climbing the mountain,” said Mancuso, who next week will use her personal Web site to auction race suits, bibs and helmets.

After the expedition they plan to visit children’s health and education projects in Africa run by Right To Play, a worldwide body based in Toronto.

“Julia and I are out-there people and realized that to get the press coverage we want we’ve got to go and do something completely unexpected,” Alcott said. “We’re going there to find ourselves and find out the other side of life. We can realize how fortunate we are to be doing what we’re doing.”

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On the Net:

Julia Mancuso: http://www.juliamancuso.com


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