Julia Mancuso’s Sochi bronze about family, not legacy

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Julia Mancuso dipped across the finish line, immediately looked to the scoreboard and let out a scream that bellowed from the depths of her burning lungs.

She had done it. Bronze in the Sochi women’s super-combined. Career Olympic medal number four.

But, perhaps more important, she made grandpa proud.

WATCH: Mancuso edges in for downhill bronze

Mancuso, 29, went to these Games with an emptiness. While the outside world concerned itself with whether she would snap out of her season-long doldrums to find the podium – like she had in Torino and twice in Vancouver – a part of her was still mourning the loss of her grandfather, who had supported her through all of the many ups and downs of her career.

Denny Lee Tuffanelli, a respected California doctor, passed away last February at the age of 83. He was quite close with Mancuso, one of his eleven grandchildren.

“When I won on the first run in the giant slalom in Torino, my grandpa was so proud of me and said, ‘Nothing else matters now. You’ve already won my race,’” Mancuso said after winning the opening downhill run by .47 seconds. “He’s in the heavens now, so I’m looking up to him right now. This is for my grandpa.”

As if the prospect of adding to her legacy as America’s winningest Olympic female Alpine skier wasn’t enough motivation, Mancuso seemed driven by a greater desire as she navigated the seemingly random collection of poles, known as turning gates, protruding from the icy Rosa Khutor slope.

MORE: Mancuso takes bronze behind Hoefl-Riesch, Hosp

When the course, which claimed nine skiers before her, tried to knock her back as she made the transfer onto the steep, she didn’t give in to those forces, somehow regained footing on her skis, and regained her rhythm. When she got to the bottom of the hill still in podium position, the emotions spilled out.

And not just for her, but for the eight family members that traveled to Russia to support her Olympic quest ring this difficult time.

WATCH: Mancusco breaks down her bronze run

Moments after the finish, Mancuso’s sister Sara, who suffered a serious back injury while the two sisters powder skied in Austria the day before the World Cup super-G in Altenmarkt, managed to hop a fence and get into the finish area, where she ran and embraced her sister.

“Oh, my gosh,” Mancuso said. “My sister — of course she would. I mean, that’s my sister who broke her back a month ago when she was coming here to support me and now here she is just like running across the finish to give me a big hug and tell me that everyone is kissing each other and crying and so happy. I mean I wouldn’t expect anything else.”

MORE: Mancuso finds fun, excitement in fourth Olympic medal

Moments after she was greeted by her sister, Mancuso made her way to the rest of her family, including her 80-year-old grandmother, Sheila Tuffanelli.

“He started all of this,” Tuffanelli told USA Today of her late husband. “We met in college. He was on the first ski team at Stanford. We raised five daughters and they all were campers and skiers. Andrea had three daughters, Julia is the middle one, and they started skiing as soon as they could walk. We’re a very athletic family. I’m sorry he’s missing this.”

After pausing to collect her emotions Tuffanelli added, “He hasn’t missed it.”

She then pointed to the sky.

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Watch Simone Biles, Nancy Kerrigan cha-cha on ‘Dancing with the Stars’

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Simone Biles made a rare misstep, but her performance on “Dancing with the Stars” was still plenty strong enough to survive the first elimination Monday.

The four-time Olympic champion gymnast got a step ahead of partner Sasha Farber on their cha-cha on the season’s second episode, leading to a lower score this week (29 out of 40) than the first week (32 out of 40).

“What you did was nice, just not together,” judge Carrie Ann Inaba said.

“I don’t know if I necessarily felt it, but what I saw was beautiful,” added another judge, Julianne Hough.

Biles and Farber’s score tied for the fourth-highest of the 12 couples, after posting the highest score the previous Monday. Biles is trying to join Shawn Johnson and Laurie Hernandez as gymnasts to win the Mirrorball Trophy.

Meanwhile, two-time Olympic medalist figure skater Nancy Kerrigan scored 28 points with partner Artem Chigvintsev for a second straight week. They also advanced.

Judge Len Goodman said Kerrigan “lost a bit of control here and there.”

“I think the thing that got to you was your nerves,” Inaba said. “In your first half of your routine you were a little bit off your step. … As the dance progressed, I saw you find yourself.”

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VIDEO: Tom Brady calls Simone Biles ‘the GOAT’

U.S. senators speak up as women’s hockey worlds near with no resolution

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WASHINGTON (AP) — Sixteen U.S. senators wrote a letter to USA Hockey’s executive director Monday over their concerns about the treatment of the women’s national team.

Players have threatened to boycott the upcoming world championships over a wage dispute. The senators, all Democrats, urged David Ogrean to resolve the matter and ensure the team receives “equitable resources.” They cited the Ted Stevens Olympic and Amateur Sports Act.

USA Hockey’s board of directors meets Monday, and players said Sunday night they hope there’s a deal.

The senators, all Democrats, joined a chorus of support that includes unions representing players from the NHL, NBA, NFL and Major League Baseball. Those organizations said over the weekend they stood with the women’s team and criticized USA Hockey for attempting to find replacement players.

Prominent NHL agent Allan Walsh tweeted Sunday, “Word circulating among NHL players that American players will refuse to play in men’s World Championships in solidarity with the women.”

Zach Bogosian, an American-born Buffalo Sabres defenseman, went to high school with U.S. captain Meghan Duggan. He tweeted his support and said he hopes the dispute is resolved.

The U.S. is the defending champion at the International Ice Hockey Women’s World Championship, which begins Friday in Plymouth, Michigan.

In negotiations over the past 15 months, players have asked for a four-year contract that pays them outside the six-month Olympic period. The senators’ letter notes the $6,000 that players earn around the Olympics and USA Hockey’s $3.5 million annual spending on the men’s national team development program and other discrepancies.

“These elite athletes indeed deserve fairness and respect, and we hope you will be a leader on this issue as women continue to push for equality in athletics,” the senators wrote.

In a statement Sunday night, players said they hoped USA Hockey would approve terms discussed during a meeting last week. They said the agreement has the “potential to be a game changer for everyone.”

The letter was signed by: Elizabeth Warren and Edward Markey of Massachusetts, Patty Murray of Washington, Dianne Feinstein of California, Patrick Leahy of Vermont, Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire, Sherrod Brown of Ohio, Thomas Carper of Delaware, Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin, Robert Menendez and Cory Booker of New Jersey, Mazie Hirono of Hawaii, Bob Casey of Pennsylvania, Kirsten Gillibrand of New York and Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota.

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