- Associated Press - Thursday, January 23, 2014

CORTINA D’AMPEZZO, Italy (AP) - Julia Mancuso is setting the pace. Stacey Cook is starting to get up to cruising speed. And Leanne Smith is trying to harness her velocity.

As for Laurenne Ross, well, she’s dropping the beat with her electronic music talents.

While Lindsey Vonn is at home recovering from surgery, the remaining members of the U.S. women’s speed team are cranking up their form during selection week for the Sochi Olympics.

Mancuso led World Cup downhill training Wednesday and finished seventh in Thursday’s super-G race for her best result this season.


“Things are going in the right direction and I know I have a lot more in me,” Mancuso said. “Training has been going really well and racing is getting better, so I’m getting there just in time for the Olympics.”

On a course set by U.S. speed coach Chip White, Stacey Cook finished ninth for her best result in a super-G in seven years.

“Super-G has been a really hard event for me for a really long time,” Cook said. “I’ve been working really hard at it and I’m really psyched with my equipment and I think that has made a big difference.”

Smith was also on pace for a top-10 finish until she skied out midway down the Olympia delle Tofane course.

“I’ve had (speed) all year. But when you’re going for it you have to be super-precise,” Smith said. “It’s hard when you’re really charging to keep it together and not make little mistakes, and sometimes they can compound and get you.”

Smith finished third in the Cortina downhill last year and will get a chance to follow up that result in downhills the next two days. Then there is another super-G on Sunday.

Two of this week’s races were originally scheduled for last weekend in Cortina but were wiped out due to heavy snowfall. The other two were moved from Garmisch-Partenkirchen due to a lack of snow in the German resort.

“I’m not going to stop attacking. I know that,” Smith said. “And someday soon here it will hopefully fall into my favor.”

Ross was also dealt some bad luck when she drew the No. 1 bib for the super-G, meaning that she had to go down full speed without any course reports from her coaches. And last week, Ross crashed in downhill training.

She finished 36th.

But Ross has been keeping upbeat with a music-writing program that she’s been tugging around the Alps this season. Already a master of the piano, violin, cello and guitar - and a solid singer, too - she describes this new device as a “beat pad.”

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