SOCHI, Russia -- Julia Mancuso knows trying to catch Lindsey Vonn in World Cup victories is futile, like a baseball pitcher saying he wants to catch Cy Young.
Both skiers are 29, and with Vonn leading by the World Cup score of 59-7, that ballgame is over.
Mancuso has been left to carve out a different legacy, but it’s the one America, and NBC, will probably remember longer.
Mancuso’s ski racing legacy will be the Olympics.
She made that clear Monday at Rosa Khutor when she out-of-nowhere earned a bronze medal in the women’s first event, the super combined.
It allowed Mancuso to double up on Vonn, 4-2, in Olympic hardware with her best races yet to come.
She has been tripping over herself all season on the World Cup circuit, but apparently all you have to do to shake a slump is point Mancuso to an Olympic start gate.
Earning bronze in the super combined required Mancuso to complete a downhill and slalom in the same day.
The downhill was no problem, as Mancuso won the morning run by nearly half a second.
Completing the slalom for her, though, is like getting a drunk to walk a straight line.
Mancuso had not finished a World Cup slalom race since 2012 and had not completed one in combined in nearly a year.
But this was the Olympics, so of course she did it Monday.
She built enough of a cushion in downhill that she was able to medal with only the 13th-fastest slalom time.
After the downhill, Slovenia superstar Tina Maze joked with Mancuso in the mixed zone.
“Get ready for some slalom,” Maze said.
Mancuso’s response: “Game on.”
Maze finished fourth.
Mancuso did not have enough juice to overcome Germany’s five-tool star, Maria Hoefl-Riesch, who defended her Olympic combined gold with a total time of 2 minutes, 34.62 seconds.
Hoefl-Riesch trailed Mancuso by 1.04 seconds after the downhill but easily made up the time in the gates. The reason was simple: Hoefl-Riesch is also the defending Olympic slalom champion.
Mancuso also could not overcome the slalom skills of Austria’s Nicole Hosp, who won silver.