Heavy snow puts Mendes’ World Championships debut on hold | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Heavy snow puts Mendes’ World Championships debut on hold

Dana Jo Turvey, Tribune Correspondent

VAIL, Colo. – Mother Nature stole the show Monday at the opening race for the 1999 Vail World Championships. Waiting for the go-ahead at the women’s super-G start, Jonna Mendes and 42 other racers from 18 nations waited uselessly during a blustering snowstorm. After a one- hour delay, racers were sent home to thaw, while plans for a makeup date were bumped to Wednesday.

Mendes of South Lake Tahoe described her day, “It was snowing really hard, kind of like how the World Cup moguls event was at Heavenly when I saw it on television. I mean, it was fully dumping up there. I actually thought for a while that we were going to run it, but basically, it never let up. Since I was starting fourth, it could have been bad with all the new snow.”

For ski racers, firm snow is key to achieving maximum speed. New, soft snow is less ideal because it makes for a slower run, which is why forerunners are utilized before the race, trying to push away powder to get at the fast, underlying ice. In the super-G, the top 15 women according to race standings got to pick their bib numbers. The next fifteen, including Mendes, received their numbers through a random drawing. The entire start list will be drawn again prior to the rescheduled super-G.

Jonna Mendes is well-supported at Vail with an cheering entourage that includes her boyfriend Ryan Adams, sister Chelsea, mother Kelly Ford and Kelly’s husband Jeff. Ford has only watched her daughter race once at a world-class level, when Mendes debuted on the World Cup circuit two seasons ago at Mammoth Mountain.

With a bevy of local athletes competing (three of the U.S. Team’s 17), Lake Tahoe will be well-represented once the heavy Colorado snowstorms fade away. Joining Mendes is Wisi Betschart, also of South Shore, plus Daron Rahlves of Truckee. Betschart received a surprising berth on the Vail team based on a last-minute fourth-place finish at San Pellegrino, Italy.

As he puts it, “I qualified for Vail at the last possible second. In the downhill, which was first, I was only 27th; then the next day I came in fourth in the super-G. I was stoked, because everything just went so smoothly. I woke up that morning feeling ready to go.”

Betschart will wait until Saturday to run the acclaimed ‘Birds of Prey’ downhill course at Beaver Creek, while Rahlves will debut today in the men’s super-G – if Mother Nature allows.

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