I went to the games this year with some hope for U.S. success, but like many, did not expect our team to do as well as they did. I specifically went to provide professional support as a naturopathic physician for some of the alpine skiers I worked with over the years and at the last Olympics.
My friend and patient, Jules, was plagued by mishaps and injuries from the last two World Cup seasons, but she came to these games prepared for success.
She resides on Maui for a good part of the summer and spent time on Kaua‘i before settling in Squaw Valley. She considers tropical Maui a regenerative healing and training location, where she supplements her snowy mountain workouts.
Melody Shishido, Katie Mancuso and Olympian Julia Mancuso celebrate victory in Vancouver.
Jules is petite for a professional skier. She is not the typical size or build of most world-ranked female alpinists, who outweigh her substantially. The other top Olympic medalists, Maria Riesch, Anja Paerson and Lindsey Vonn, are approximately five to six inches taller and 40 pounds heavier.
Size equals speed in events such as the giant slalom (GS), “Super G” (Super Giant Slalom) and the downhill events. To compensate for size, she uses a finely tuned set of technical racing skills—and of course, her innate talent.
But after Jules completed two uneventful World Cup seasons, most sport pundits had little hope that she could reverse her recent trend of injuries and poor race results.
“Timing is everything,” said Mancuso, “and believing in oneself is paramount to success.”
That definitely seemed to be the case this year in Whistler. She started tenth on the women’s downhill course and maintained first place until her teammate, Vonn, bettered her time by .56 seconds. In one day, Jules earned a silver medal with three events to go.
The next day in the Super Combined, a race that tallies the times of a downhill and slalom race, Jules came away with a second silver medal.
In the “Super G” two days later, Jules was the first racer—a tough position on a course in which no pre-race runs are allowed.
“I skied the course well,” she said, “but lost some time on one of the more technical sections of the course due to taking one gate slightly wide.”
This cost her slightly more than one second, putting her eight places behind the winner.
Jules employs the use of non-traditional training, functional nutrition and alternative medical treatments, which appear to have worked well for her at the games. She feels that the effect of training and retreating on her home turf of Maui makes a big difference.
“I get time to relax and train in a different and regenerating environment,” said Jules. “The crossover of surfing, stand-up paddling and swimming in the clean, warm waters are definitely healing as well as regenerating.
“On Maui, all of the different opportunities to cross-train in different creative ways helps me keep excited about the sport of skiing,” she said. “Stand-up paddling is a great crossover support for skiing.”
Contrary to conventional wisdom, it appears that training her own way on the beautiful, tropical island of Maui may be the secret to silver and gold success.