Mancuso heads home after blowing lead in giant slalom |

Mancuso heads home after blowing lead in giant slalom

Julia Mancuso of the United States reacts after finishing in 5th place in the Women's Giant Slalom race, at the World Alpine Ski Championships in Are, Sweden, Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2007. (AP Photo/Luca Bruno)

ARE, Sweden Julia Mancuso’s hopes of world championship gold are over for now. Her next goal is becoming the first American woman to win the overall World Cup title in 24 years.After leading the opening leg of the giant slalom Tuesday, the Olympic champion managed only a fifth-place finish under the floodlights. She plans to return home and skip Friday’s slalom, saying the world championships have been “just too much for my body.”Anja Paerson’s remarkable three-race winning streak ended when she fell on the second run of the race won by Nicole Hosp. Paerson, who swept the first three races at these world championships with victories in the super-G, downhill and combined, was the two-time defending champion in giant slalom.Paerson, a Swede, was seventh on the first run Tuesday.”Of course I’m very disappointed,” she said. “I tried to push myself to go fast and go for the gold and not hold back anywhere. You only have a world championships at home once, and you can’t go home feeling you didn’t give it your all.”

Hosp, who was fourth after the opening leg, won with a combined time of 2 minutes, 31.72 seconds to give Austria its first gold medal at the world championships after two silver and three bronze medals. Hosp won one of those bronze medals, in Sunday’s downhill.”I dreamt of this gold medal last night,” said Hosp, who leads the World Cup giant slalom standings this season. “After I came down and was leading, I watched the other girls come down, but I wasn’t nervous, because my time was so good. I knew for Julia and the others it was going to be very, very difficult to equal this time.”Maria Pietilae-Holmner of Sweden captured the silver medal in 2:32.57. Italy’s Denise Karbon took the bronze in 2:32.69.”I heard there were some bad jokes going around, that the Austrians cannot make a gold medal,” Hosp said. “And now it’s time for the gold medal for Austria. I think a lot of people at home are very happy about it.”Both runs were under the lights, and there was a spectacular view from atop the mountain before the opening leg, with a gorgeous mix of purple and red hues.

“It was really cool up there this afternoon,” Mancuso said. “It was sweet, the pink light was hitting everything. It was awesome.”Mancuso had a small stumble four turns from the finish of her opening run, but still posted the fastest time on the Gastrappet course.”I was surprised with how fast my first run was, so I was feeling confident going into my second run. But the set was a little bit tighter and everything was just a little more demanding and I wasn’t quite ready for that,” Mancuso said.The American was the final skier down on the second leg and started with an advantage of 0.25 on Hosp. But Mancuso was 0.41 behind by the first split and ended up 1.24 back.”The snow wasn’t what I expected. It was a lot rougher. It was kind of bumpy at the beginning and I just didn’t have the timing right,” Mancuso said. “I was a little bit tired.”

It’s been quite a season for Mancuso. She’s won three races in three different disciplines – downhill, combined and super-G – on the World Cup circuit, and sits third in the overall standings. Mancuso also won the silver medal in the combined race here and finished in the top 10 in all four of her events.Now she’s going home to rest up for the end of the World Cup season. She has a legitimate shot at becoming the first American woman to win the overall World Cup title since Tamara McKinney in 1983.Mancuso’s departure means she will miss the slalom race and team event that close out the competition.”I need a break,” Mancuso said. “This was a really tough couple of weeks for me. Just so many events. It’s almost easier when you bang them out race after race, four in a row. Just having the days off in between and training, it was just too much for my body.”

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