Julia Mancuso

    Photo: Photograph by Marc Hom

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The first time we heard about Julia Mancuso, she was winning gold in the 2006 giant slalom, in Turin, after top U.S. contender Lindsey Vonn was injured in practice. The Lake Tahoe native went on to have a career-best season, but in the years that followed, her results were hindered by injury. Now 25 and heading into Vancouver, Mancuso is the underdog again. You can follow her Olympic journey on Twitter.

OUTSIDE: Déjà vu. Are you faster when you aren't expected to win?
MANCUSO: I really don't care what other people predict or who's favored. My strength is going into big events and just skiing. Maybe other people don't ski as well at the Olympics. The only thing different for me is the physical preparation, making sure I'm well rested and that I have the right equipment and training.

Are you someone who doesn't feel pressure?
I don't think of the negative consequences; I think of the positive consequences. I do remember being more nervous for my second run at the Olympics. I'd won the first.

What about rivalry, like with Lindsey Vonn?
We're not really rivals, but we don't have much in common. In the past few years, she's distanced herself from the ski team. She has her trainers and her husband traveling with her all the time.

There's talk that fame has slowed you down. Any truth to that?
It's lots of stuff. There were changes in the equipment rules, and I struggled to find new skis. I compressed disks in my back and had hip surgery. Last year was really disappointing for me, but it came at a good time. I could focus on becoming healthy instead of dealing with little injuries. I'm feeling 100 percent better.

Good enough to win?
I have a medal already. I've already achieved my dream. When I was younger, I said I wanted to win four gold medals. One's good for now.

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