Mendes leads Americans with sixth-place finish | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Mendes leads Americans with sixth-place finish

Tribune and USSA reports

US Jonna Mendes in action to finish sixth in the women's downhill at the World Alpine Ski Championships in St. Moritz, Switzerland, Sunday, Feb. 9, 2003. (AP Photo/Diether Endlicher)

ST. MORITZ, Switzerland — Jonna Mendes flirted with a second podium finish in the women’s downhill at the world championships on Sunday.

Mendes, who grew up in South Lake Tahoe, finished an American-best sixth, only .52 of a second behind winner Melanie Turgeon of Canada. The Heavenly Ski Foundation product was third after her run but was bumped off the podium by several of the late competitors.

Mendes, the super-G bronze medalist, raced No. 14 and finished in 1:34.82. Turgeon was timed in 134:30.

Kirsten Clark of Raymond, Maine, was 19th, with Libby Ludlow of Bellevue, Wash., 23rd and Caroline Lalive Steamboat Springs, Colo., 30th before a crowd of 17,000.

“I gave it everything I had and more, so that’s all I can ask myself,” Mendes said. “There were a few places where I improved (from training) and a few places I didn’tE

“I can’t be disappointed with myself when I gave it 100 percent — and I really did. I wasn’t nervous, I felt good about myself, I feel like I stepped up, and I took risks and that’s what you have to do when you’re trying to win gold. Sometimes it works — for Mel, it worked today and for me, it didn’t get me the gold but it got me sixth. Sixth place is nothing to be disappointed about.”

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The victory meant North Americans have won four of the past six women’s world downhill titles: 1993 — Kate Pace; 1996 — Picabo Street; 1997 — Hilary Lindh

The women, who hadn’t raced since last Monday’s super-G, face their second race in two days today in combined. Representing the U.S. will be Mendes, Lalive, Tahoe City’s Julia Mancuso and Resi Stiegler of Jackson Hole, Wyo.

Mendes is gaining confidence with each race and is excited to see how it will pay off when World Cup racing resumes after the championships.

“Now that I am capable of medaling, I’m hoping the momentum from there will continue through the rest of the season lead to more medals,” she said. “I don’t believe I’ll judge my performances differently. I’ll try to keep the same expectations and give it everything I’ve got.”

The notoriety Mendes has received for earning her first career podium finish last Monday has been overwhelming.

“Since medaling, I can’t seem to go anywhere here without people congratulating and recognizing me,” Mendes said. “I went to pick up some pizza for my ski technician the other night and the waiter recognized me and the whole wait staff came out of the kitchen to shake my hand.

“(Friday) in the training run, a bunch of kids in the stands were chanting “Jonna Mendes” over and over. I keep pinching myself and thinking that this really can’t be true, but it is!”

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