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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Despite blade trouble, Nathan Chen leads men at Skate America

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Nathan Chen leads the men’s field at Skate America after tallying 104.12 points, a new personal best, on Friday night.

During the six-minute warm-up before the final group of skaters, Chen could be seen conferring with his coach, Rafael Arutunian, about his blade. He explained on the Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA broadcast that during the warm-up, Arutunian manipulated the blade to fix the edge. They plan on playing with it again so it’s better for Saturday’s free skate.

“There’s a lot of points that I could have gotten last year and I’m making sure I take care of them this year,” Chen said of his personal best, according to U.S. Figure Skating. “The score is still not that close to some of the top men currently, but that’s something that I know is attainable and it’s something I’m going to work toward.”

Arutunian’s other pupil in the men’s field, Adam Rippon, is in second place behind Chen with a personal best of his own – 89.04 points. Sergei Voronov of Russia sits in third place after the short with 87.51 points.

The third American in the field, Ross Miner, popped a triple Axel and didn’t receive any credit for the element. He tallied 71.59 points and sits in eighth place heading into the free.

The free skate will determine which skaters earn a berth to the Grand Prix Final in Japan in two weeks. Chen, despite being a favorite for the Skate America title, can finish anywhere among the top four for a berth to the Final. Voronov can also finish in the top four to make it to the Final. Rippon needs to finish anywhere on the podium.

Plus, with reigning Olympic gold medalist Yuzuru Hanyu and his training partner Javier Fernandez (a two-time world champion himself) out of the Grand Prix Final, the podium there is wide open. Patrick Chan, a three-time world champion and the Sochi silver medalist, won’t be at the Grand Prix Final either.

MORE: Skate America TV Schedule

Earlier Friday, in the pairs field, Canadians Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford scored 75.37 to lead the field after the short program.

China’s Yu Xiaoyu and Zhang Hao followed for second with 73.67 points. Aliona Savchenko and Bruno Massot, who represent Germany, earned 72.55 points for third place after the short program. All three teams have a chance to qualify for the exclusive Grand Prix Final should the podium stand is after Saturday’s free skate. Even with a shakeup among the top three, it is likely that they will all qualify.

The top American team was married couple Alexa Scimeca Knierim and Chris Knierim, who scored 64.27 and are fourth after the short. Haven Denney and Brandon Frazier tallied 63.04 (sixth) and Deanna Stellato and Nathan Bartholomay are eighth with 57.18 points.

MORE: Bruno Massot earns German citizenship

Massot gets German citizenship, path cleared for Pyeongchang

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LAKE PLACID, N.Y. (AP) — Bruno Massot learned Thursday he has passed his German citizenship test, clearing the way for him and partner Aliona Savchenko to compete at the Olympics in Pyeongchang.

Massot was born in Caen, France, and qualified for the 2014 Sochi Games on the French team, but he was held out of the Olympics because partner Daria Popova did not gain French citizenship in time.

He has since partnered with Savchenko, a Sochi participant, and been working to become a German citizen. This was his third time taking the German citizenship test, and the final time he would be able to qualify for citizenship in time for the Olympics.

“It’s really different,” Massot told The Associated Press, “because I don’t have this now anymore in my head, this question like, `I will be blocked again, or not?”‘

Massot’s naturalization ceremony will take place next Wednesday. Massot and Savchenko are in Lake Placid competing at Skate America this week.

MORE: Skate America preview, TV schedule