Olympic bronze medalist Julia Mancuso dishes on how she stayed stress-free at the Olympics, and how she’ll regain her focus for the rest of her racing season.

Christine Mattheis
February 24, 2014

Julia Mancuso’s bronze-medal finish in the super-combined at the Sochi Winter Olympic Games makes her the most decorated American female alpine skier in history. But her Olympic success doesn’t mean she’s heading to her second home in Maui for surfing and celebratory Mai Tais just yet. After pit stops in New York City and Los Angeles, Mancuso—who graced our January/February cover—will finish up her season by racing on the World Cup circuit in Europe.

Though Mancuso’s busy schedule would be enough to make even the most level person’s head spin, she was calm as ever when we had the opportunity to catch up with her during her stay in New York. While sipping her favorite chocolate coconut water (ZICO is one of her sponsors), Mancuso told us how she stayed stress-free at the Olympics, and how she’ll regain her focus for the rest of her racing season.

In the weeks leading up to the Olympics, what did you do to ensure you were sleeping well, eating right, and didn’t just get stuck in your own head?

I definitely was really tired before going to the Olympics. We had a lot of races in one week, and a week of cancelled races. I noticed I was really tired and I think that especially I was emotionally tired. Being able to recognize that has taken me a lot of years. I just knew that I needed more sleep. I also found myself using my computer too much, and my phone. It helped me to set personal limits—no going on the computer before bed. Read a book and decompress that way. That helped me get the energy I needed. I did the same thing at the Olympics. I limited the amount of time on my computer and phone, and it helped me stay fresh.

I also focused on what I love to do. It’s really easy to get caught up in the results of things. I wanted to focus on my sport and how I love to do it, and be inspired by other athletes and their stories. I took it all in and didn’t worry too much about results. You have to take it one step at a time—you have to ski well to get on the podium.

At an event like the Olympics where it’s televised in the United States, does that added pressure affect you at all?

Knowing that everyone would be watching at home was fun. Knowing that my family would see me, and knowing that more people would see my run if I did well, was a motivating factor. You have to treat all races the same, even if the Olympics mean more. At the Olympics, there is more pressure and I had more nerves, but I used that to my advantage. I grabbed all those nerves and combined them.

What do you do to calm yourself down right before a run?

When I compete, I like to think of three things that I love before I go. They have to be three different things. At the Olympics, I thought about how I’d had an amazing powder run during training in Cortina, Italy, from top to bottom. I thought of an amazing wave I caught surfing last summer. And I thought of my friends and family and the feeling of a hug.

The Olympics are over, but you’re right in the middle of your skiing season. What will you do to refocus?

Again, it’s just thinking about how much I love skiing. Sometimes when I finish, I’ll want to go do something else, do media in New York, or just enjoy the moment. But then after some time in a city I’ll think, “I just want to go skiing!” That’s what I love. That’s why I do this sport. I don’t do it to win, necessarily, or to get famous. Remembering what makes me happy keeps me focused.

What type of music calms you down?

I’ve been listening to rap! Kanye, Jay-Z, Kendrick Lamar. Getting into those songs makes you have an alter ego. When I’m really nervous, I’ll listen to that stuff and it’s funny. Female rockers, too.

You were so supportive of your fellow athletes during the Games. How do you balance your competitive spirit with your desire to be supportive of the people you’re up against?

My mom always taught me that there is enough for everybody. She is really into the self-help stuff. “You are not your ego.” The years I’ve spent on the tour, I’ve understood this isn’t all about ego. There’s enough for everybody out there—enough medals to be won, enough fame, enough good energy. As part of a team, the more we can do for each other, the better everyone will be at the end. So, thanks Mom!

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