Julia Mancuso, USA's greatest Olympic skier

Julia Mancuso

Julia Jules Mancuso is the only American woman Olympian to win medals in three different alpine racing events: giant slalom; downhill and super-combined.

This makes her a greater Olympian than Lindsey Vonn.

Mancuso says of her training regimen, The hard thing is go to the gym. Everything else is just a lot of fun for me and it helps my skiing, so I love it.

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Julia Mancuso

Julia Mancuso is bad cop to Lindsey Vonn's good cop. Or put another way, Lindsey Vonn is the wholesome, well-behaved teacher's pet, while Mancuso is the party chick who hates routine and has a problem with authority figures. Mancuso is Bode Miller, while Vonn is Daron Rahlves.

Mancuso in the hot tub

Julia Mancuso, center, hot-tubbing

Julia Mancuso

Julia Mancuso works out. [Sports stars]

Julia Mancuso

Julia Mancuso's toned bod

Julia, what was it like making the transition from competing on your local hill to becoming a pro?

When I first started racing world cups, it was so organized and there were banners and TV cameras everywhere. I think that was the most intimidating part, more than the competition. It was really intimidating to all of a sudden be in this perfect arena. Most of the races I grew up skiing were little races with the occasional banner here and there. Once I got to competing world cups, they were these perfect venues with tons of cameras. One of the first races I went to was one of the largest and there were over 8,000 people there.

What do you do on the tour when you are not skiing?

In a different town, or different country, there are varying degrees of entertainment and nightlife. So, in quieter towns, I'll just sit back with my friends and drink some champagne, eat a good meal and watch a movie. Other places, I'll go out and party all night if the mood is right!

What's your approach to racing? How do you get in the zone?

I ski as hard as I can and have as much fun out there as possible. It sounds so cliche, but my ethic is one of clearing the mind and being completely present in the moment. There's no yesterday, no tomorrow, just now.

Tell us about your workout routine.

In the summer I do a lot of weight training and I do a lot of pilates to get good body awareness. I also do a lot of biking. The cool thing about skiing is that it's such a dynamic sport that pretty much all cross-training can carry over. There is no specific way to train, you just have to be really strong. For me, the hard thing that I do is go to the gym. Everything else is just a lot of fun and it helps my skiing, so I love it.

What's the toughest part of your job as a skier?

The hardest thing is traveling so much, not being at home, and living out of a suitcase. It can wear on you. I'm traveling at least seven months of the year. It's going to sound like a real tough life, but we spend a lot of time in Europe in the winter, and in the summer we chase the snow. Right now, I'm in Chile and I just got back from New Zealand. It's basically South America training in the summer and mostly Europe in the winter.

You travel the European ski tour by bus like a rock star?

My driver and cook Werner has taken big bands like Pearl Jam around on their European tour, so that's kind of cool. I love it, because I can just keep my belongings in one place and not have to pack, unpack, repack and unpack again from hotel to hotel. Anything that helps me feel at ease and at home while help me be better at my job. I have reached a level where I feel the bus is a great investment.

Are you aware of being a star and celebrity.

I live by my motto Do what you love and love what you do. Just by following that I believe great things unfold. There's a simple beauty in living this way and I think that it can translate into other people's lives. I want to inspire people to go for it, break out of that box and just charge it. I want to inspire to love and be fit, really stoke people out, persuade them to have fun moving your butt! It is so liberating when you overcome laziness go for that surf, or go on that bike ride. A life on fire, that's what I want my career to be and with more passion, comes more flame and more recognition.

Do you get along with Lindsey Vonn?

We get along great. We've been competing against each other since we were 12. Our personalities are a little bit different, but I guess opposites attract sometimes. It's cool.

What's your dream job apart from skiing?

Clothing designer. I've always had that dream as a child. For the Olympics we are making some sweatshirts, and a friend and I are starting an underwear company. We are going to make some fun underwear this year. I don't feel like I have all the skills I need to be a full-on clothing designer. Right now I just sketch some things and I have to pass it along to other people because I don't know how to use all the programs. If I had more time, I would love to be better at that.

What are your hopes for the Vancouver Olympics?

I always want to win every race. Going all out is the only way to do it. Physical preparation is a fulltime job. You just have to commit and go for it.

By Armand Whyte