Finally – World Cup Finals
World Cup ski racing will draw to a close this week, when the four-event finals are contested at Are, Sweden. While Austria’s Hermann Maier has a lock-hold on the men’s overall, Tahoe’s Jonna Mendes and Daron Rahlves join seven other teammates vying for the remaining race points and titles.
Others representing the U.S. Ski Team will be Chad Fleischer (Vail, Colo.), Erik
Schlopy (Park City, Utah), Kristina Koznick (Burnsville, Minn.), Sarah Schleper
(Vail), Megan Gerety (Anchorage, Alaska), Caroline Lalive (Steamboat Springs, Colo.) and Kirsten Clark (Raymond, Maine).
Additionally, Alison Powers (Winter Park, Colo.) and Bode Miller (Franconia, N.H.) qualified, but are currently out with injuries.
Racers may be invited to the finals only if they are seeded top 25 in any event. Mendes of Heavenly is currently ranked 15th in downhill; she missed
out on super-G finals with her 29th-place worldwide ranking. Daron Rahlves (Sugar Bowl) will compete in both speed events; the current super-G world
champion is standing 15th in downhill and 17th in super-giant slalom.
While Rahlves had a disappointing past weekend at Kvetfjell, Norway – with a bib disqualification and a missed gate – the American women seem primed. They may have found a liking for the Swedish speed track. In final downhill training, Gerety was third, Mendes 5th and Clark 9th.
Mendes described the course as “short – I don’t want to say easy, but you really have to punch it if you want to shine.”
The 21-year-old from South Lake Tahoe has posted her best season yet
in elite skiing. This week counts as her freshman debut at a World Cup
finals. Add to that a recent confidence boost, racing at Innerkrems, Austria.
Before traveling to Are, Mendes filled time with a lower-level FIS giant
slalom, and popped third place in a field of World Cup regulars.
On the men’s side, bad weather forced training back one day. Racing will now be held today for both men’s and women’s downhills. While Maier has won the overall and super-G titles for the year, he is still aiming for victories in giant slalom and downhill. If he does, the mighty Austrian will tie
Sweden’s legend, Ingemar Stenmark, for the most wins in one winter. Stenmark has 13, while Maier currently holds 11 ski racing wins for this
In his own private battles, the Herminator trails Swiss ace, Michael von Gruenigen, by 40 points in giant slalom and countryman, Stephan Eberharter, by six points in the downhill standings. In speed training Wednesday, the likable Eberharter placed second, while Maier scored a lackluster 17th place.
Regarding the downhill track in Sweden, US women’s coach Marjan Cernigoj
said, “It’s a short downhill – about 1:16, 1:17 for the women, 1:27 on the
men’s course. They may run a little faster because we had rain [Tuesday], followed by some snow, then it got warm, then cooled off. The forecast for
Thursday is overcast, so the light will be tough … but we’re ready. The girls are anxious to race again.”
Following the World Cup finals, Jonna Mendes heads directly to Snowbasin, Utah, for Super Series (Nor-Am) action. The Olympic venue will host two downhills and a super-G on the relatively new Wildflower course. According to Mendes, many international speed skiers will journey to the event, for preparation for the 2002 Winter Games. She added, “It’ll be different, since most World Cup racers don’t have a good ranking for Nor-Am races. So you’ll have all these really hot skiers coming out of starts in the 30s and 40s. But it’ll be fun – I’m really looking forward to Snowbasin.”
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