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Olympics: Mancuso in pole position in women's combined

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

US skier Julia Mancuso took a giant stride towards winning super-combined Olympic gold on Monday, dominating the downhill leg in Rosa Khutor.

Mancuso notched a time of 1min 42.68sec, 0.47sec ahead of Switzerland's Lara Gut, with last year's super-combined World Cup winner Tina Maze of Slovenia third at 0.86sec.

Austria's Anna Fenninger, 2011 world champion in the discipline, finished fourth, with several racers failing to finish. Defending Olympic champion Maria Hoefl-Riesch was fifth.

"It felt good. I was definitely looking for extra speed when I kicked out of the start gate," said Mancuso. "Despite making a couple of mistakes I just focused on staying aerodynamic.

"The snow's a lot softer today so it was harder to tell exactly how your run was going to be," she said, as warmer temperatures altered the conditions on the course.

The US skier won giant slalom gold at the 2006 Turin Games and silver in super-combined and downhill in 2010 in Vancouver and has an impressive collection of world championship medals.

"I love being at the Olympics. I get really energised," said the 29-year-old from Squaw Valley, California.

"It was a perfect example of what I always think: anything's possible at the Olympics, you can never count anyone out. You just have to do your best.

"I really feel I have a chance of a medal and especially having a great downhill run. I need to stay grounded and focused on that slalom."

With slalom her specialty, however, Hoefl-Riesch could still upset Mancuso's quest for gold.

"Those who are in front of me, except maybe Tina Maze, are actually weaker in the slalom," said Hoefl-Riesch. "But it doesn't mean anything. So much can happen, you can make a mistake and lose a lot of time.

"And there are some very good slalom racers behind me who are within reach (of a podium) so you just have to attack and take a lot of risks."

"I'm in a good position. There's just one thing to do: attack in the second run."

The super-combined, which includes one downhill run and one slalom, tests racers' ability to tackle both speed and technical courses but it is the event least featured at World Cup level, with just two or three races per year.

The slalom starts at 3:00pm (1100 GMT).

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/140210/olympics-mancuso-pole-position-womens-combined