Fans’ patience rewarded as Mendes comes home |

Fans’ patience rewarded as Mendes comes home

Matt O'Neill

Not even a two-hour delay could keep Jonna Mendes’ fans from seeing her return home Sunday evening.

The Heavenly Ski Foundation member and national champion’s return to the South Shore was delayed because of weather and a traffic accident on U.S. Highway 50.

Nonetheless, Mendes’ fans were excited to see their idol when she finally made her way into the welcoming party at The Hard Rock Cafe at Harveys Casino Resort.

“I’m excited to see her,” Justeen Ferguson, 12, said. “She’s the reason I’m skiing.”

The gathering was small but enthusiastic as Mendes spent the better part of an hour signing T-shirts and photos for her admirers.

“I’ve been watching her all season on TV,” said Aimee Pitcher, 9. “I’m excited to see her in person.

“(In the past), she has skied with me and signed my helmet.”

The welcoming party, organized by Heavenly Ski Resort, was meant to welcome the World Cup star home as she prepares for another Olympic appearance in 2002.

“We really wanted to give her the chance to see all the people she hasn’t seen while she’s been gone,” said Kristen Aggers, a Heavenly public relations officer. “Especially with her having the great year she’s had this season and the Olympics right around the corner.”

Mendes, who broke her foot on the last race of the season at the Chevy Truck U.S. Alpine Championships, was very happy to have such an enthusiastic reception.

“It’ really exciting for me because everyone in Europe is so into skiing, when I’ve come home in the past there’s never been anything like this,” Mendes said. “I’ve never had anything for myself. I’m used to signing autographs in Europe, but not here.”

Some of Mendes’ fans were so excited to see their idol that they were devastated at the thought of her not being able to make the appearance.

“We went to the wrong place and she started to cry when she wasn’t there,” Aimee’s mother, Kathy Pitcher said. “Then we realized we were not in the right place when they didn’t know what we were talking about.”

Even people Mendes met Sunday afternoon in Sacramento came to the party.

A group of young men followed Mendes to the Hard Rock Cafe.

“I met those guys in Sacramento this afternoon and they asked what I was doing this evening,” Mendes said. “I told them I was going to a party and my friend said that the party was for me and I was a national champion, but they didn’t believe us.”

They had to see for themselves.

Mendes will spend the off-season rehabilitating her broken foot before beginning preparations for the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City.

Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

Readers around the Lake Tahoe Basin and beyond make the Tahoe Tribune's work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.

Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.

Your donation will help us continue to cover COVID-19 and our other vital local news.