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May 26, 2018

Vonn in tears as Mancuso hangs up tiara

Vonn in tears as Mancuso hangs up tiara
'Julia Mancuso wears a "Wonder Woman" ski suit as her teammates celebrate her storied career' - By: AFP Tiziana FABI

Julia Mancuso donned a Wonder Woman outfit to lift her spirits but the colourful former Olympic champion's final downhill run was not only sad but painful.

The 33-year-old American, who has battled a hip problem, called time on her stellar career after accepting that a fifth Winter Olympics was out of reach.

Teammate Lindsey Vonn laid her head on her friend's shoulder and wept. That Vonn had missed her 79th World Cup victory because of a mistake on the downhill run was secondary to the retirement of her friend.

"It's a sad day," said Vonn. "We've been skiing together since we were nine years old.

"We basically climbed the ladder of ski racing together. She's always pushed me. We've reached high levels of sport because we have each other.

"We're very different people but we have so much respect for each other."

Mancuso was kitted out in a superhero race suit for her final run down the Olympia delle Tofane course where she won her first World Cup medal in 2006.

Her last chance of making the US team for next month's Pyeongchang Games was in Cortina this weekend.

"Cortina is normally, really sweet and easy. I was looking forward to coming here and proving that I had what it takes to make the combined team for the Olympics," said Mancuso.

"It all happened really fast. I realised that my body and hip injury could not keep up with my brain."

Mancuso said that she often had her best results when having fun and in the past competed in her lucky "Super Jules" knickers, and wore a tiara on the podium when she won Olympic gold and silver.

This time she chose Wonder Woman and the theme of superheroes.

"I felt that the crazier I would dress the less emotional I would be," explained a tearful Mancuso who limped into Friday's press conference.

"It's strange. I'm not necessarily sad but most of all the pain gradually got to me. Every race proved to be difficult.

"My medal hopes went away and then not being able to make the team."

She will however be in South Korea working with US broadcaster NBC.

- 'Push the limits' -

After an 18-year career her final outing was a cameo run down the slope in the Italian Dolomites where she took her first podium finish in January 2006.

Known for her unconventional style and her ability to perform on the big stage Mancuso is the most decorated US women's Olympic skier.

She won Olympic gold in the giant slalom in Turin 2006, silver in the downhill and combined in Vancouver in 2010, and bronze in the combined in Sochi four years ago.

She is tied with Vonn for most global championship medals won by a US woman with nine and has also stood on the World Cup podium 36 times, with seven wins, and started in 398 World Cup races.

She hasn't won a race since February 2012 with her last podium a third place in the World Cup downhill in Lake Louise, Canada in 2014.

Vonn said Mancuso's style would be missed.

"That's what downhill is about, it's personality you have to man up and push the limits and that's what she does every time.

"If everyone is robotic it's boring. People who are pushing the limits, those are the characters like Bode (Miller). Gutsy, ballsy, badass..."

Vonn, 33, was pipped to a 12th World Cup victory in Cortina on Friday with Italy's Sofia Goggia winning back-to-back downhills this week after holding off the American by 0.47sec.

Overall World Cup leader Mikaela Shiffrin, competing for the first time in the downhill in Cortina, took third, at 0.84sec.

"It's really very emotional for me," said 22-year-old Shiffrin of her compatriot Mancuso.

"She was at her peak when I came onto the World Cup circuit, and really inspired me. It's sad to see her go."

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