Mendes cracks the top 10 for the first time, finishing 10th in a downhill |

Mendes cracks the top 10 for the first time, finishing 10th in a downhill

During her brief World Cup career, Jonna Mendes has made most of her progress and statements at Lake Louise, Alberta. Her latest race at Lake Louise Ski Area was no different on Thursday. Mendes cracked the top 10 for the first time, finishing 10th in a downhill.

“Yeah, Lake Louise has been good to me – my first World Cup top-30, my first top-20 and now, my first top-10. That works for me,” said the 21-year-old Mendes.

Lake Louise also put a little money into Mendes’ pockets. Her first World Cup paycheck was worth $2,000. Prize money only goes to the top 10 finishers.

Mendes, who spent much of her youth skiing at Heavenly Ski Resort, hinted at a breakthrough season in previous months after switching equipment sponsors and getting into the best physical condition of her life.

“She worked really hard this year, and that’s one thing she really needed, getting into World Cup fitness,” said her former Heavenly coach Noel Dufty. “She’s had three years on World Cup, with this being her second full one; the confidence she had when we talked; and she’s hitting that age, kind of where women athletes shed their insecurities (so her progress is understandable).”

Mendes’ season-opening 13th-place super-G finish last Friday in Aspen, Colo., gave her momentum going into Lake Louise. She sustained it by placing seventh or better in three training runs earlier in the week. Mendes tied for third Wednesday and placed fifth and seventh in two runs Tuesday.

American teammate Megan Gerety of Anchorage, Alaska, upstaged Mendes, placing sixth in 1 minute, 35.77 seconds.

“To come back and get a top 10 is nice,” Gerety said. “A podium would’ve been nice, too. And I’ve been fifth a number of times, so I’d like to break through there, too.”

Mendes’ time was 1:36.03. Kirsten Clark of Raymond, Maine, gave the Americans three finishers in the top 15 with her 14th-place performance.

“The girls are ‘there’ technically,” said U.S. downhill/super-G head coach Jim Tracy, “and now it’s a question of being mentally tough. Of staying focused. It’s been a while since we’ve had three in the top 15, but they skied great.”

Petra Haltmayer of Germany picked up her first World Cup victory and $30,000, completing the course in 1:34.71.

Italy’s Isolde Kostner, who came in second in 1:34.81, rides on the same Fischer skis that Mendes recently switched to.

“I certainly know that Jonna’s on top of the pecking heap as far as skis go,” Dufty said.

The women race another downhill Friday with a super-G Saturday at Lake Louise before they head to Europe.

Friday’s downhill could set up Mendes for a really big season, Dufty said.

“If she gets anything similar Friday, then she’ll set herself up for the top group,” he said. “The top 30 picks their starting spots, with the first racer going wherever they want. Right now Jonna is 28th out of 30 in the pecking order.”

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