Mendes works extra hard for 9th season
Two-time Olympian Jonna Mendes didn’t like the ski racer that she became last winter.
Only a year earlier the South Lake Tahoe native was at the pinnacle of her skiing career, having won a bronze medal at the World Championships.
But for no apparent reason Mendes’ results started resembling those of a World Cup rookie, not an eight-year vet. A regular World Cup top-20 performer in years past, Mendes struggled to earn a single point race after race. Aside from a top-five downhill finish in St. Moritz, Mendes just couldn’t find her groove.
Instead of making excuses and shifting blame, the 25-year-old Mendes took it upon herself to improve her results by becoming a workaholic. She worked out with a personal trainer five days a week and treated the off-season like a military boot camp. Once the team began training on snow, Mendes took extra runs and worked through multiple disciplines daily.
“I’ve never worked as hard,” she said. “I’ve always worked hard on and off the hill, but I took it to a whole new level this summer.
“My last season was not nearly what I hoped it would be, so I went into this season with a completely different approach. I’ve treated it as my most important season ever and went into the preparation period reminding myself of that every day.”
Mendes will get a preliminary report on what the extra work will mean as she and her U.S. Ski Team speed specialists compete at Lake Louise, Alberta, this weekend. A pair of downhills and a super-G are scheduled today through Sunday.
When her results started slipping last season, Mendes found out how much they meant to her.
“I learned that my personal satisfaction is directly related to my performance as an athlete,” Mendes said. “I couldn’t separate myself as a person and myself as an athlete. When I skied below my expectations, I valued myself less.
“I’ve been competitive skiing for 17 years, but obviously still have a lot to learn. If I don’t do well as I expected or wanted, it’s not the end of the world.”
Coaches and teammates were supportive as Mendes slumped for two months.
“Every one of my coaches and teammates know what I’ve accomplished and what I’m capable of,” she said. “No one, myself included, ever thought I wouldn’t be at the top again.”
Mendes proved them all right by winning the national downhill to conclude her season.
Now, she anxiously awaits her ninth World Cup season, making sure she doesn’t put too much pressure on herself.
“I’m hoping to start the season strong, but I’m not stressing about it. I know I’ve worked hard and have earned it, but I also recognize how talented a group of skiers I’m competing with every day.
“I have a lot of ground to make up now and consistently scoring World Cup points throughout the season is what I’m shooting for. I want to be at the top again and I know I’ve put in the work, so I’ll just have to wait and see how it comes together.”
Even though the 2006 Winter Games aren’t far off, Mendes hasn’t begun to think about competing in her third Olympics. She’s focused on the present and World Cup racing.
“We have 14 months until Torino and 50 races between now and then that are all important,” she said. “The Olympics are incredible, but they are only every four years. We have countless races in those four years and each one is significant.”