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What the 25-year-old Mancuso had a hard time comprehending Thursday was the way the defense of her Olympic GS title went by the wayside. Vonn's wipeout Wednesday happened right as Mancuso was kicking out of the starting gate with a shorter-than-usual interval because of driving snow and dense fog; officials were hoping to squeeze everyone in before the course deteriorated too much.
"I can't say, honestly, it was fair, but there's nothing I can do about that," Mancuso said Thursday. "And I know that everyone here at the Olympics is doing the best that they can, and safety always comes first, so I really just had to do my best with the circumstances."
Mancuso was forced to stop her race, make her way down to the finish area, then hitch a ride on a snowmobile back to the top. Even that was an adventure: About halfway up, she was told the snowmobile couldn't go all the way. Mancuso managed to talk her way past that roadblock, only to get to the start area and realize she didn't have her credential. That issue resolved, too, a weary Mancuso finally got her first run in, but was 18th, 1.30 seconds behind the leader.
Bad weather forced the second run to be postponed, and while Mancuso turned in Thursday's third-best time, it was nowhere near enough to contend for a medal to add to those she earned in the downhill and super-combined. Instead, she finished 0.55 second behind Rebensburg's two-run time of 2 minutes, 27.11 seconds. Slovenia's Tina Maze won the silver, and Austria's Elisabeth Goergl the bronze.
"I can't wonder 'What if?'" Mancuso said. "It's just really a crazy situation that I can't even wrap my head around."
Even more difficult to deal with was what happened to her pal Johnson, a former X Games competitor who fell and hit the back of his helmet on rocks while skiing at Squaw Valley on Wednesday. She recalled hanging out with him at the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics and spoke glowingly of his love for skiing and pushing limits.
As she spoke, Mancuso's voice cracked, and tears welled in her eyes. She paused a couple of times, turning away from reporters to compose herself.
"Coming here today for me, after everything yesterday, was just, like, 'Go out there and love skiing,'" she said.
Draining as Wednesday and Thursday were, Mancuso chose to concentrate on the happier events of her third Winter Games while she prepared to head home.
"Really, it's better than I could have imagined," she said. "After winning my gold medal in Torino, at the end of 2006, it was like, 'You know what? This is what ... my career's all about, is going to the Olympics and performing under the Olympic (spotlight). There were some unlucky things happening with my other races, but I really feel like sometimes, in ski racing especially, luck just has to be on your side."
Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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