Austrians are queens of hill, too; Mendes 26th |

Austrians are queens of hill, too; Mendes 26th

Dana Jo Turvey

VAIL, Colo. – The Austrian women showed their male counterparts that they could keep up, when Alexandra Meissnitzer, Renate Goetschl and Michaela Dorfmeister claimed the top three super-G spots on Wednesday. Meissnitzer, a shoe-in for the win after leading the speed standings all season, grabbed World Championship gold with 1minute, 20.53 seconds as the time to beat.

Goetschl, with a costly mid-course mistake, claimed silver with a score of 1:20.56 and was followed less closely by teammate Dorfmeister, whose time of 1:20.74 took the bronze medal.

‘Meissi,’ in her strongest season yet, is leading the overall and super-G World Cup standings, while Goetschl heads the pack in downhill. Dorfmeister has held steady at fourth in the circuit’s super-G ratings. Regine Cavagnoud of France, a recent winner at Cortina, Italy, lost a strong chance for a medal after damaging her knee in Tuesday’s downhill training.

With Austria the country of the day, followed by Germany in fourth and fifth, Team USA contradicted the ‘home team advantage’ theory. Running with bib #1, Megan Gerety of Anchorage, Alaska, skied off course before the last steep pitch of Vail’s International run. Kate Monahan of Aspen, Colo., claimed 23rd position and South Lake Tahoe’s pride Jonna Mendes placed 26th. Caroline Lalive of Steamboat Springs, Colo., followed Mendes by two one-hundredths of a second into 28th spot.

Not pleased with her super-G showing, Jonna Mendes explained, “It’s frustrating, but it happens, you know? Usually I’m about two seconds out if I’m having a good run. But today I was three point seven. It’s not so much the way I skied, but the way I got pushed low [at one gate] and didn’t react well enough to it.”

Mendes, a nineteen year-old former athlete for Heavenly Ski Foundation, drew bib number four for the third day in a row. With an unusually early start position, she explained, “It goes both ways, because on one hand I’m excited to get it over with – normally by now I’m still sitting in the lodge, not even close to going. In that way it’s great and I wasn’t nervous about going fourth.

“But then again, I’m used to coming later and if I do well, I know right away. Usually I come through and I can look [at the scoreboard] and think, ‘Wow, top 30, I did it – all right.’

“Here, you just watch yourself get bumped down and down. It would have been better if I was skiing well and if I was ‘in there’ – but it was still fun. It’s just a different perspective. You’re not always going to ski well. Actually, I am skiing well, but you have to put it all together for a minute thirty. Today, I didn’t react well enough to what the course was throwing at me.”

Mendes learned late Tuesday evening that she has not one, but two other chances to show her talent to World Championship fans. Previously just scheduled for the speed events of downhill and super-G, coaches have added the two-event combined to her roster. This gives visiting family and friends another chance to see the busy racer.

With a crowded schedule that includes daily meetings, dryland workouts and required downhill training runs, Mendes said, “I’ve been so busy, I’ve only been getting a couple minutes a day with my family. Yesterday, we had a parent/athlete dinner where all the girls got to get together with our families. It was really nice. That was the first time I got to actually sit down and kind of relax.”

Just as busy, but now adding a celebration to their agenda, is Team Austria. The last time three Austrians claimed all three medals in a World Championships was 1964 at Innsbruck.

Other than a first in the combined at Sestriere, Italy for Renate Goetschl, the Vail podium sweep counts as first-time Championships medals for these three Austrian women.

Alexandra Meissnitzer explained her win, “It’s very nice to have teammates with me on the podium. I have worked hard and I know they have worked hard – today it paid off. I had a big chunk in the middle line that was bad, the same place where Renate made a mistake. We should have done it like yesterday, where Kjus and Maier tied, then we could have gotten two gold medals for Austria.”

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