Mendes to add GS to her 2003-04 World Cup schedule |

Mendes to add GS to her 2003-04 World Cup schedule

Steve Yingling, Tribune sports editor

One glance at her 2003-04 World Cup skiing schedule was enough reason for Jonna Mendes to split for the Caribbean following the conclusion of the Chevy Truck U.S. Alpine Champion-ships last Tuesday.

Starting next season, her eighth season with the U.S. Ski Team, the Heavenly Ski Foundation alum will follow a hectic schedule familiar to teammates Kirsten Clark and Caroline Lalive.

Mendes, who celebrates her 24th birthday today, will add giant slalom to her itinerary next season. She has focused on downhill and super-G in previous seasons.

“This year, I was lucky to get two breaks. Next year, I’m probably looking at zero,” Mendes said.

But GS is something Mendes brought on herself. After winning the discipline the previous two years at the national championships, her coaches realized they had more than a speed skier.

They gave Mendes her first World Cup GS start a month ago in Sweden and she responded with a 28th-place finish.

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“GS is so hard … it’s such a competitive event in Alpine skiing,” Mendes said. “It adds a lot more work and a lot more time during the season.

“I’ll train with the GS team this summer and if I can keep skiing fast and doing well, I’ll become a full-time member. I don’t see any reason why I won’t.”

Especially after the career-best season she just punctuated with three national medals. Mendes recorded a career-best eight top-10 finishes on the World Cup circuit. Her career highlight came in February at the World Championships in St. Moritz, Switzerland, where she earned a bronze medal in super-G.

“It proved to me that it’s possible to step up to that caliber and it proved to me for sure that I can do it in a World Cup,” Mendes said. “Next year, I plan to be there a few more times.”

Obviously, Mendes hopes to keep the momentum going next season.

“I’m not satisfied at all,” she said. “If anything, being on the podium at the World Championships just fired me up even more. It was so wonderful. It really helped me understand in a huge way why my sport is so wonderful and why I’ve been working so hard all these years. I’m definitely going to push for more.”

When she isn’t working on getting better in the offseason, Mendes plans to attend 10 San Franciso Giants’ games and maybe even admire her new wall of fame at the new Applebee’s in town.

“It’s pretty cool,” said Mendes, who doesn’t have a ski run named after yet at Heavenly like Daron Rahlves does at Sugar Bowl. “It’s an honor that I’m considered for things like that. To be chosen to represent the community as the town athlete, it’s nothing but a good thing.”

Mendes plans to spend most of April in the Lake Tahoe area. After the success Mendes enjoyed this past season, she’ll probably spend most of her month at home shaking hands.