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Vonn, Mancuso insist rivalry robust, not resentful

By Pat Graham

Associated Press

Published: Saturday, Nov. 27 2010 2:15 a.m. MST

ASPEN, Colo. — Lindsey Vonn and Julia Mancuso each posed provocatively for the same magazine.

The U.S. Olympic medalists also both shot enticing scenes for ski films.

It's almost as if anything one can do the other can do better.

Yet both insist this rivalry is more healthy than hostile.

They may not be the best of buddies, or travel in the same circles, but it's a relationship built on respect, not resentment, despite all the rumors and reports.

Their so-called rift is laughable to Vonn, who quickly dismissed the notion there's disharmony between the two.

Sure, Vonn and Mancuso competed with each other at the Vancouver Olympics for medals and media exposure, both leaving with their fair share of each.

But there's no bad blood.

"I've never said a bad word about her," said Vonn, who, along with Mancuso, will race this weekend as the World Cup makes its annual stop in Aspen. "It's disappointing sometimes the things people choose to write about. We've always supported each other. I've always supported her. We're teammates and that's what teammates do."

Mancuso said it's been beneficial to see what her top rival is up to on a regular basis, a luxury she has with Vonn training so close.

"You know where you are," said Mancuso, who splits her time between Squaw Valley, Calif., and Maui. "You know if you need to be faster, because she's always training fast. It's good to have that."

The two put on quite a show in Whistler, Vonn winning her signature event, the downhill, and Mancuso taking the silver to give the U.S. its first 1-2 finish in any Olympic Alpine event since 1984.

Mancuso also captured the silver in the super combined, while Vonn added a bronze in the super-G.

Things turned a little testy in the giant slalom when Vonn wiped out, touching off quite a chain reaction. With Vonn down, Mancuso, who was in the middle of a solid run, was waved off the course by officials.

Mancuso, the defending Olympic champion in the event, was then brought back up to the top by a snowmobile for another run.

Soon after, Mancuso posted a terse tweet: "that yellow flag in the GS was such... I just want to scream. I'm really miffed. Anyway, gotta take that energy and focus it for 2nd run."

Later that evening, after the race had played out and she ended up eighth, Mancuso posted another tweet: "been hearing lots of people thinking I'm mad at Lindsey for crashing... thats just ridiculous! bummed about the situation...not Lindsey."

Vonn, of Vail, maintains the competition on the course doesn't carry over off the hill.

"We've been competing against each other since we were 12 years old. We get along fine," Vonn explained recently. "It's good that you have two athletes on the same team that are pushing each other. It helps both of the athletes ski better. ... There's always going to be competition among teammates."

Both skiers cashed in on their success after departing Whistler.

Mancuso changed skis, switching from Rossignol to the German brand Voelkl, went on the set of "Larry King Live" and signed a deal with Spyder to design apparel, which will feature a collaboration with her own lingerie line, "Kiss my Tiara."

She also posed nude for ESPN The Magazine's Body Issue.

"It was definitely difficult, the photo shoot part," Mancuso said. "But I run around Maui in a bathing suit most of the time, so it's not too different."

Vonn's offseason was just as adventurous. She shot commercials for sponsors such as Under Armour, was picked for Maxim's "Hot 100" list and filmed a scene for her favorite show, "Law & Order."

She also took part in a photo shoot for ESPN The Magazine, appearing on the cover as she re-enacted a Sharon Stone scene from "Basic Instinct."

"I feel like for me personally I'm the same person. My life has just gotten busier. That's all," Vonn said. "It hasn't changed who I am, my goals, or anything like that."

On the slopes, Mancuso and Vonn have been just as busy.

Mancuso spent quite a bit of time in the Southern Hemisphere, filming for various projects and ramping up her training.

"I feel really good," Mancuso said. "In the last four years, I learned a lesson about taking care of my body and making different choices and changing priorities on the most important things for my skiing. To have gotten the medals in the Olympics and looking forward to the next Olympics, I feel like things can only get better."

Despite winning a third straight overall World Cup title last winter, Vonn overhauled her training and her diet.

Vonn incorporated 400-meter sprints into her workout regimen over the summer to enhance her explosion in the slalom and giant slalom. She figured the only way to maintain an advantage on her best friend and fierce rival Maria Riesch of Germany was to improve at the events Vonn's struggled with most — the technical ones.

She also revamped her diet, basically eliminating rices, pastas, breads and dairy products.

"It's definitely a big change for me," Vonn said. "But I always look back and say, 'What can I improve upon?' I've always eaten healthy but I never had a strict diet. Now I'm taking my diet to a whole new level. I feel like it's working well for me so far. We'll see how it goes this season."

As for any friction with Vonn, Mancuso quickly quashed it Friday after a free ski session on the hill.

"There is no animosity," Mancuso said bluntly.

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