Kildow and Mancuso have fierce rivalry |

Kildow and Mancuso have fierce rivalry

AP photoLindsey Kildow, left, and Julia Mancuso, of the United States, stand in the finish area during training for Saturday's World Cup women's downhill in San Sicario, Italy, on Thursday.

SAN SICARIO, Italy ” Julia Mancuso is a carefree Californian and fashion fanatic. Lindsey Kildow is from the Midwest and enjoys farming.

The two American skiers may seem different off the slopes, but the 22-year-olds are quickly evolving into the top duo on the women’s circuit.

Mancuso and Kildow each have three World Cup wins this season. Mancuso is third in the overall World Cup standings and Kildow is fifth entering the World Championships next weekend in Are, Sweden.

Kildow, who now lives in Vail, is second in the super-G standings and Mancuso is fourth. In the downhill ranks, Mancuso is second and Kildow is third, one point behind.

The intense rivalry makes for a complicated relationship.

“It’s tough, because we’ve been skiing against each other since we were 12, but we get along great,” Kildow said. “Our personalities are definitely a little bit different, but I guess opposites attract sometimes. It’s cool, a good friendship.”

Because they are so close to each other in the standings, Mancuso and Kildow often ski in succession.

“It’s cool to know when you come through with a good race that your teammate is one of the only ones left who can beat you,” Mancuso said Saturday, after Kildow finished fourth and she placed fifth in a downhill here.

Two weeks ago, Mancuso and Kildow finished 1-2 in a super-combi in Altenmarkt, Austria. The next weekend in Cortina, Mancuso dominated again with one win and two runner-up finishes. This past weekend, Kildow responded by winning a super-G Sunday and finishing second in another super-G on Friday.

“They’re feeding off each other. There’s a really healthy competition between those two,” U.S. speed coach Alex Hoedlmoser said. “Of course they want to beat each other. They’re actually getting along real well, though. There’s no problem there.”

As Mancuso stood in the starting gate for Saturday’s downhill, she turned around and started laughing suddenly.

“My technician said to kill everyone, and I said ‘No, I am going to love anyone,”‘ she explained.

It was a typical Mancuso moment.

“That’s her, that’s how she is. She’s never really too serious about things,” Hoedlmoser said. “If she gets too serious, then things aren’t working for her.”

Kildow’s more focused approach is similar to the rival Austrians.

“It goes in that direction, for sure,” said Hoedlmoser, who is Austrian.

The U.S. team coach, Patrick Riml, is also Austrian. But Kildow’s style doesn’t come from her coaches.

“She’s always been like that,” Hoedlmoser said. “She just wants things really bad. She has this goal and she’s going to do everything she can to reach that goal. Julia is more the free spirit one and Lindsey is the super hard worker and more serious about things.”

Mancuso might be more popular back home after winning the gold medal in giant slalom at last year’s Turin Olympics. In ski-mad countries like Austria, Switzerland and Germany, Kildow is the star.

Kildow does TV interviews in German after studying the language for several years.

“She’s good, really good, actually,” Hoedlmoser said of Kildow’s proficiency. “They love her, because she can answer in their own language.”

Kildow’s sponsoring company Red Bull provides her with a German tutor and full-time professional trainer, Martin Hager, who used to work with Austria’s men’s team.

Mancuso picked up a trainer she met at her gym in Hawaii, where she spends her summers.

“It’s not super intense, having someone with me all the time like Lindsey. It’s more relaxed,” Mancuso said.

Last season, Mancuso dated Steven Nyman, a member of the U.S. men’s team. Now she’s single.

“I’m still looking for that person,” she said. “I’ll be married someday.”

Kildow became engaged to Thomas Vonn, a former member of the men’s team, over New Year’s, and travels the circuit with him.

“He’s kind of my confidence booster. Whenever I’m feeling down, he boosts my ego. Sometimes that’s what you need,” Kildow said.

Kildow won a cow for her downhill victory last season in Val d’Isere, France, and surprised the organizers when she decided to keep it.

The cow recently had a calf and Kildow keeps both at the U.S. team’s European base in Kirchberg, Austria.

“I think I might start selling milk and cheese,” she said.

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