ALTENMARKT-ZAUCHENSEE, Austria — American Julia Mancuso finally is confident on skis again, with the Sochi Olympics only four weeks away.
Leaving behind personal and equipment troubles that spoiled the first half of her season, the 2010 silver medalist finished 13th Saturday in a World Cup downhill for her best performance of the season.
But it wasn't the moderate result that made Mancuso smile.
"It's important to get a good result but it's most important to feel good," Mancuso said. "For me, personally, getting a podium is not as important as feeling super comfortable on my skiing."
Mancuso looked focused and aggressive as she attacked the 3-kilometer Kaelberloch, one of the most challenging courses on the women's circuit with a steep start section, some huge jumps and several sharp turns.
Judged by split times, Mancuso would probably have finished around fifth if it wasn't for a severe error that slowed her near the end of her run.
"I knew I was having an OK run," she said. "I still didn't know how my time was going to be but I felt a lot better. I had a mistake at the bottom and you never know how much a mistake costs."
The main result for Mancuso, though, was feeling well again, finally.
"I have the feeling I want to do it again now. I want to be fast," Mancuso said. "I am psyched that I can be feeling like that because it's been a couple of months that I haven't had a feeling like that."
"I saw quite a bit of the old Julia today and that makes me happy," U.S. women's head coach Alex Hoedlmoser said. "Her skiing was there, she was dynamic, she was also pushing the line a little bit, she was racing. I really liked what I saw."
Mancuso's best run of the season came one day after an accident involving younger sister Sara, who was visiting Julia in the Austrian ski resort but was hospitalized after compressing two vertebrae in a ski crash.
"She is doing good," Mancuso said. "She has small fractures. She'll be OK so that's the best part. She doesn't need surgery. (Regarding) my race preparation, I was able to do everything that I needed to get done but being at the hospital for six hours doesn't help."
Hoedlmoser praised Mancuso for performing well the day after her sister's mishap.
"She's really close to her sister," Hoedlmoser said. "Just to be able to sort that out and leave that behind, that shows me that she's still the old Julia and she is going to be ready for the Olympics."
With Olympic downhill champion Lindsey Vonn out for the season and missing Sochi because of a right knee injury, Mancuso is the U.S. team's main medal hope in the speed events.
Already the most decorated American female skier at major championships, Mancuso is eager to add more silverware to her eight medals.
"It's pretty good that it's four weeks away and everything is getting better," Mancuso said. "I am feeling good about myself. My goal of winning medals is still there. That's all I am really thinking about, just getting myself prepared."
Mancuso is coming off a tough time, which included the split-up with her long-term boyfriend, Norway's skiing great Aksel Lund Svindal, in September and persistent equipment troubles since the World Cup season started in October.
"I've been having some equipment issues that kind of surprised me because the summer training was going really well, I was skiing really fast," said Mancuso.
Due to personal changes at her supplier Head, Mancuso had to work on her material with different technicians. She got lots of equipment to test and to choose from, but that made it only more difficult for her.
"It's easier when things are simple," said Mancuso, who returned from her mid-season break back home to compete in Austria. "It was really nice to go home and work with my trainer at home."
This weekend, Mancuso finally discovered the gear she wants to take to Sochi.
"I raced a different boot every downhill until today," Mancuso said. "Being really confident about my equipment, that is the biggest thing. (This race) really helps my decision, to pick something and stay with it. It's four weeks now so there's no time for changing things."