Julia Mancuso

Julia Mancuso may be rounding into form before Olympics

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Three-time Olympic medalist Julia Mancuso, whose best finish this season is 12th, clocked the fastest training run ahead of four straight days of speed races in Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy, on Wednesday.

Super-G races Thursday and Sunday and downhills Friday and Saturday will be key in determining Mancuso’s medal chances in Sochi. With Lindsey Vonn out, she is the face of the U.S. women’s speed team.

“Definitely my confidence is getting better and better,” Mancuso said, according to The Associated Press. “Even though we’ve had canceled races I’ve been spending a lot of times on my boots [free] skiing. That’s the most important thing for me — to feel really comfortable and confident on my equipment. … I’ve put in the hours I needed.”

The hope from Mancuso’s struggles this season is that she is seen as a big-event skier, to be able to turn it on at the Olympics or World Championships.

She had never won a World Cup race before taking the 2006 Olympic giant slalom title. In 2010, she was coming off her worst World Cup season in four years and won two silver medals at the Vancouver Olympics.

It was about this time four years ago that Mancuso began to flip the switch. She was a season’s best eighth in a downhill in Cortina on Jan. 23, 2010, and then third in the super-G portion of a super combined one week later.

“I’m sure if I’m skiing well then the results will come,” Mancuso said, according to the AP. “And it doesn’t even matter what place I end up in the races going into it. Even today having a really good training run that’s a really good confidence (booster) for me.”

U.S. Olympic speed skater asks family not to go to Sochi

Photos: Final Five meet the President, First Lady

WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 29:  U.S. first lady Michelle Obama(L) rests her elbow on the head of Olympian Simone Biles (2nd L) as President Barack Obama (R) speaks during an East Room event at the White House September 29, 2016 in Washington, DC. President Obama and the first lady welcome the 2016 U.S. Olympic and Paralympic teams to the White House to honor their participation and success in the Rio Olympic Games this year.  (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
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The U.S. Olympic women’s gymnastics team spent extra time at the White House on Thursday after President Barack Obama delivered a speech to the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic teams.

Simone Biles, Laurie Hernandez, Madison Kocian and Aly Raisman did the splits with Obama, and even lifted vegetable dumbbells with First Lady Michelle Obama.

Gabby Douglas, who had her wisdom teeth removed earlier this week, did not attend the event.

MORE: Simone Biles discusses her future

Katherine Reutter ends early retirement

VANCOUVER, BC - FEBRUARY 26:  Katherine Reutter of the United States celebrates the silver medal in the Ladies 1000m Short Track Speed Skating Final on day 15 of the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics at Pacific Coliseum on February 26, 2010 in Vancouver, Canada.  (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)
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When Katherine Reutter retired in 2013 at the age of 24, she never thought she would return to the ice. Three hip surgeries and two major back injuries left the two-time Olympic short track speed skating medalist in constant pain.

But now Reutter is scheduled to compete this weekend at the U.S. Speedskating Short Track World Cup Qualifier at the Utah Olympic Oval.

“You wouldn’t expect somebody who has been as injured as I have to be back at their best,” Reutter said in a telephone interview from Utah. “I feel like I’m getting close.”

Reutter only started contemplating a comeback last November, after being inspired by attending a World Cup race as a member of the U.S. Speedskating Athlete Advisory Council.

She began a regimen of yoga twice a week and daily 30-minute walks when she returned to Milwaukee, where she was working as a coach for the Academy of Skating Excellence.

“I started off really, really slow,” she said. “I started to work out the amount that a normal person probably should.”

Pain free, Reutter began skating during the practices that she was coaching.

“I noticed the days I came home really happy were the days where I had skated,” she said.

Reutter only started to truly believe that she could return to skating competitively when she clocked times that she described as “pretty darn good” a training camp in Salt Lake City in May and June.

She has learned to listen to her body. After experiencing pain when she scheduled twice-daily workouts six days per week, she scaled back to four or five days per week.

“I don’t really have the option to overtrain like I used to,” she said.

Reutter’s goal this weekend is to earn a placement for the ISU World Cup, which begins Nov. 4-6 in Calgary. Eventually, she would like to compete at the 2018 Winter Olympics.

But Reutter would be happy just being, well, happy.

“I am trying to live life to its happiest every single day,” she said, “and speed skating allows me to do that.”

Reutter recently changed her Twitter bio to say “comeback queen.”

“So far I’m the only one who calls me that,” she said, laughing. “I suppose people could get on board eventually”

MORE: Five athletes to know before the 2018 Winter Olympics