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
Australian golfer Marc Leishman will miss the Rio Olympics due to his wife’s health.
“Many of you may know that last April my children and I almost lost my wife, Audrey, to toxic shock syndrome,” Leishman said in a statement. “Since then Audrey has been prone to infection and is far removed from 100 percent recovery of her immune system.
“We have consulted with Audrey’s physician and due to her ongoing recovery from toxic shock and potential risks associated with the transmission of the Zika virus, it was a difficult yet easy decision not to participate.
“I missed playing in the 2015 Masters tournament to be at her side when she was originally stricken and I cannot risk placing her health in jeopardy.
“The Masters and the Olympics are the two biggest tournaments to which a golfer can be invited; however, my family will always come before golf.”
Leishman, 32 with one PGA Tour win, joined the projected Olympic field when countryman Adam Scott said last month that he would skip Rio.
World No. 1 Jason Day is assured one of two Olympic spots for Australian men when the 60-man field is determined based on July 11 world rankings.
With No. 7 Scott and No. 35 Leishman out, the next-best Aussie is No. 63 Marcus Fraser.
Three more major champions — Vijay Singh, Louis Oosthuizen and Charl Schwartzel — also said in April they would not compete in Rio.
Golf returns to the Olympics for the first time since 1904.
MORE: Australia Olympic legend blasts Adam Scott
Rory McIlroy believes golf may not remain in the Olympics after 2020 following a string of major champions announcing they will skip the sport’s return at the Rio Games.
“Because of how [Olympic golf is] being approached in golf circles … I’m not sure if we’re going to have another opportunity to win a gold medal after [Tokyo 2020],” McIlroy said ahead of the Wells Fargo Championship in Charlotte, N.C., on Wednesday.
In 2009, the International Olympic Committee voted to re-add golf and rugby to the Olympic program for the 2016 Olympics, with a review in 2017 if they would remain for the 2020 Olympics.
In 2013, Tokyo was elected host city for the 2020 Olympics with a plan that includes golf.
Beyond 2020, golf does not yet have a place in the Olympics. Its chances for the 2024 Olympics could come into focus when that host city is chosen in September 2017.
McIlroy, ranked No. 3 in the world, has repeated he will play for Ireland in the first Olympic golf tournament since 1904 in Rio in August.
Fellow major champions Adam Scott, Louis Oosthuizen, Charl Schwartzel and Vijay Singh said last month they will not play in the Rio Olympics.
MORE: Golf Channel’s Olympic broadcast schedule