Julia Mancuso's Day: Who Said Luck, Time and Circumstance Don't Factor In?

Vancouver Olympics 2010 – Julia Mancuso Part 1

Julia Mancuso woke up yesterday morning focused on one thing:  Performing well enough to win Gold in arguably her favorite event – The Giant Slalom.  Skiing at the top of her game, Mancuso has already done America proud by winning two Silver Medals in the Downhill, and Super Combined.  She’ is the defending Olympic Champion in this event having already won Gold in Torino, Italy in 2006.   She had to be thinking:  “This is my event – Today is my Day!”
Was it?
In this day of instant communications, Mancuso is legendary for her following on Twitter and as a typical multi-tasker shes in constant contact with her world, her fans, her sponsors and anyone else who wants to know what this girl is doing on an hour by hour basis.  She tweets regularly – and that means she is also accessible.  Sometimes thats not such a good thing.

Mancuso learned that CR Johnson, a long time friend and gonzo free skier from Squaw Valley was killed in a bad skiing accident that day.  While entering the Light Towers area above the Cornice II lift, Johnson caught an edge on the rocks.  No stranger to adversity and injury in skiing, C. R. Johnson was in news after suffering from a traumatic brain injury in December 2005.   However, he had made a great comeback – fighting bravely to recover his free skiing mojo.  He was getting better day-by-day and recently finished 3rd in the prestigious Red Bull Line Catcher event.  Witnesses reported that Johnson fell several hundred feet before smashing into the rocks head first.  As a long time friend of Mancuso, who grew up skiing on the same slopes – there is no doubt his passing impacted Mancuso as she twittered – “This one’s for u CR.”
The conditions on the course were surreal yesterday with fog, snow flurries and poor visibility impacting the course set-up and race execution.  Narrowing the time frame for conducting the race – directors sent skiers in one minute intervals so as to reduce the likelihood some skiers might get clear skies while others grappled with poor visibility.  That decision set in motion the second of factors destined to impact Mancuso’s day – because the skier on the course right before Mancuso was Lindsay Vonn – who fell on the course just as Mancuso started.
Not only is it ironic that the two Americans were on the course back to back – it proved to be an issue as Vonn was unable to get clear of netting in time for Mancuso’s run on that section of the course.  Out came the yellow flag, and Mancuso was cleared from the course….towed by a snowmobile back to the top…to once again que up to race – regroup and call up a winning run.
With the level of preparation that goes into a competitor’s mind gearing up for a ‘gold medal run’ – Its not so easy to press the “RESET” button and act like nothing happened – or – what you just experienced was another training run.  As things turned out, Mancuso’s 1st run on the GS was far from perfect – and she sits 18th as the second run of the race was postponed to another time and day – as yet, undetermined.
Moving up is not impossible – but coming back from such a deficit to medal will be perhaps insurmountable.  The ‘overnight?’ delay is also likely to play a role.  We will see just how well Mancuso can overcome grief, loss, and unfortunate circumstance to perform her best as she completes the GS.  Good luck, Julie – We’re rooting for you.  To say that its a tall order is an understatement – and – from a sport psychology perspective, improbable.
To recover from this day Julie will be required to do some significant refocusing.  Mancuso will first have to put day one out of her mind.  She will need to focus exclusively on what she’s got control of….her performance….her technique…what she will do to remedy the mistakes of yesterday’s lackluster rerun…and …she will need to regain her mojo – her ‘will’ to compete and her ‘desire’ to have the last memory of her Vancouver Olympics defined by what she does in her 2nd run on the GS – not by what ‘might have been.’  She will have to draw what inspiration she can from CR Johnson’s return to skiing…and if possible, call up his “attitude in recovery” and recommit to the sport they love.  She will also have to forgive – those who made decisions, and those who made mistakes – that adversely impacted her first run in the GS.   She will have to focus.  She will have to improve.  She will have to learn from her mistakes on course.  And finally, Julie Mancuso will have to “think like a champion” – recall races in her past where she made great recoveries and performed her best – beyond anyone’s expectations – beyond her expectations. To reset her mojo – and give the performance of a lifetime – Julia Mancuso will have to redefine the parameters of mental toughness she’s known here-to-fore.
Is it likely?  No.
Is it possible?  For a great athlete like Julie Mancuso – Absolutely.
Stay tuned for part II of this article…..

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