American skiing star Julia Mancuso will look to bag the gold medal in the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics Super Combined event when she competes in the slalom portion on Monday in Rosa Khutor, Russia.
Mancuso, who was the silver medalist in the same event during the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, dominated the downhill portion of the event, clocking 1 minute and 42.68 seconds during the 1.69-mile race.
Mancuso's time is .47 seconds faster than second-running Lara Gut of Switzerland, who is also one the favorites in the competition. Tina Maze of Slovenia finished a distant third at 1:43.54 - .86 seconds slower than the American skiing champion's clocking.
After the downhill race, Mancuso said that the warm condition that softened the snow worked well into her advantage during the downhill race, adding that her one-day layoff also helped her big time.
"I was just full of energy when I kicked out of the start," Mancuso said. "The snow felt a little bit softer so it was easier to really drive into my ski. Having a day off, I felt really energized today. First race of the Olympics, I was excited, and I really just focused on being aerodynamic and going for it."
The skier's downhill portion times will be added to their clocking for the slalom run. But while Mancuso is currently on the driver seat, analysts believe that the gold-medal race is still wide open.
Mancuso has not performed well in slalom races as she failed to finish slalom runs since the 2011-12 World Cup season and she has not placed better than 20th during that span. The American skiing champion, who has yet to compete in a World Cup slalom race this year, remains confident that she can defy the odds against her.
"Slalom for me is kind of like a game of luck," Mancuso said. "Roll the dice, and it's on, or you roll the dice, and it's off. I haven't done a lot of training because it's not that easy on my body."
Maria Hoefl-Riesch, the gold medalist in the event during the 2010 Vancouver Games, is expected to have a share of the spotlight despite finishing fifth in the downhill portion with her 1:43.72 time.
Skiing fans can catch the finals of the Sochi Olympics super combined competition through live stream at NBC Olympics Live Extra. NBC will also show a replay of the race later in the day.