When the Winter Olympics get underway, Julia Mancuso is a name to watch. The U.S. Ski Team member has three career Olympic medals including a gold in the 2006 giant slalom and silvers in the downhill and combined in 2010. Mancuso's 2006 achievement was recognized by her home mountain, Squaw Valley Resort, through a trail named "Julia's Gold."
Off the snow, Mancuso, 29, is known as one of the sport's most colorful characters by often sporting a tiara that started as a joke with a coach. Not afraid to show off a little sex appeal, Mancuso was the first "Lange Girl Athlete," and she even appeared nude in the ESPN The Magazine Body Issue. She also models her own "Kiss My Tiara" underwear brand.
Mancuso has a knack for performing best on the big stages of the Olympics and World Championships. While preparing for her fourth Olympic Games, Mancuso shared her perspectives on racing and all the off-hill pursuits that make her a unique athlete.
Photo Credit -- Roger Witney, Alpine Canada
When we talked with fellow U.S. Ski Team member Ted Ligety recently, he said he tries to ski "just with pure instincts" on the course. For you, what thoughts go through your mind on the course?
When I am skiing my best, I believe I am. I learn my line and just focus on skiing. A meter here and a meter there won't make as much of a difference as throwing up some snow to get to the perfect spot. It's about letting your instinct take over and just letting it fly.
In your current "I AM Julia Mancuso" video series, your free-spirited personality shines through. You seem to combine a fun-loving nature as a person with a serious belief and a will to win as an athlete. How do those two sides of you mesh together?
Having fun and loving my sport are a big part of my success. It's about making great turns and feeling the snow under your feet and the wind in your face. I have an older sister who was really good at everything, so I learned how to be competitive by wanting to keep up with her and beat her.
Along the same lines, you spend time in the off-season in Hawaii. Is that a way to clear your head of skiing and then come back refreshed?
I've fallen in love with the islands. I love getting away from the intensity of racing and being able to focus on myself and my health. I get excited to leave the islands and go skiing, but when I'm done on the slopes, I'm just as excited to get back to the warm tropics and do other sports. The great thing about the mountains and the ocean is you can spend hours and hours outside and the time passes so quickly. I love nature. It's what inspires me the most out of everything I do.
Photo Credit -- Mitchell Gunn, ESPA
For me, fitness is about improving yourself. It's about making goals and reaching them, because ultimately that gives you more self-confidence. Confidence is key in skiing. You need to be able to scout out your line and know that physically you can do it and you will stay on your skis. It's important to connect your core to your legs, which lots of single-leg exercises help to strengthen. My favorites are single-leg squats and single-leg deadlifts. Nutrition-wise, it's important to stay hydrated and eat your greens. Eating lots of antioxidants will help prevent your leg burn from getting the best of you.
Your name is literally front and center on the Squaw Valley trail map. Tell a bit about your long history with the resort and what that honor meant to you?
I literally grew up starting at KT-22. I was lucky enough to live in the valley, and I skied as much as I possibly could. Passing the Olympic Rings everyday going in and out of the valley was a constant reminder of my quest for the Olympics. I wanted to be a part of that.
Last Olympics, you had to put your underwear line on hold. What's the "bottom line" on the future of "Kiss my Tiara"?
I hope all my fans will wear my super Jules underwear, but other than that I'm focusing on racing.
Photo Credit -- Mitchell Gunn, ESPA
Last but not least, the Olympics is coming up again. What would make Sochi a success for you in your mind?
I'm excited about Sochi. There's something so special about the Olympics and really being able to show the world your sport and compete your best. I want to win another gold medal in Sochi, that would be a success, but ultimately I just want to be proud of my races. I want to go in there feeling confident and leaving it all on the hill.
- Favorite run at Squaw (other than Julia's Gold): Red Dog Ridge
- Favorite songs: Tennis Court by Lorde; Where Is My Mind by the Pixies; Glory and Consequence by Ben Harper
- Most fun people you have skied with: Sierra Quitiquit, Jt Holmes and Marco Sullivan.
- Favorite charity you support: High Fives Foundation
- # of tiaras you currently own: Too many to count!
- Favorite race venue: Cortina
- Favorite surf spot: Maldives
- Guiltiest indulgence: Chocolate and lots of it!
- Weirdest thing you've seen from a chairlift: Bra trees. I really don't get those.
This post originally appeared on the Liftopia blog.