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Mendes in Mammoth for World Cub race

Mike Traum

Jonna Mendes is among the best Alpine skiers in the world.

Fans of the South Tahoe High graduate get a rare opportunity to see her compete against other global-best racers in the Cafe de Columbia World Cup event this Saturday at Mammoth Mountain.

Mendes, 18, is currently ranked top three in the United States in the super-G event with Kirsten Clark and Kate Monahan. She’s also No. 1 in the world for her age group. Mammoth will be her third World Cup start. She finished an impressive 31st last year at Mammoth in her first-ever start and fell last week in GS at Park City, Utah.

“I’ve raced more at Mammoth than anywhere else. It’s a big advantage. There’s no better place for me,” Mendes said. “Last year, I was so close (to the top 30 and World Cup points). I was four-hundreths of a second out. It takes a quarter-second to blink your eye. That’s nothing. But I figure it was for a reason and I’ll make the best of it this season.”

Added U.S. Ski Team coach Georg Capaul, “(Jonna) is a huge talent … a fierce racing mode.”

The super-G race was originally scheduled for today but was changed due to massive snow accumulations. It’s tentatively scheduled to be televised by ESPN on Sunday at 10 p.m. The race will take place weather permitting.

The waiting game is OK with Mendes, who is overcoming a minor cold and recovering from slight internal injuries suffered in the Park City crash.

“The light was flat, where you could see the gates and nothing else. I hit a bump and it completely threw me off,” said Mendes, a Heavenly Ski Foundation member. “People were calling my house all day wondering if I was alright. I don’t have any problems right now. Considering the little injuries that plague everybody throughout the year, I think I’m in the best health I can be. It’s a great way to start the season.”

In the fall, Mendes suffered a pulled stomach muscle, bruising and three days worth of headaches. Now recovered, she said the confidence level she was feeling prior to the Park City race is precisely the mind-set she hopes to capture come Saturday.

“I was relaxed and ready last week – in a zone. It was just unlucky (to fall). This is exactly where I want to be. This is going to be a big year,” said Mendes, who expects a similar start position to last year’s 48th.

For the teen-ager, the “big year” could get a jumpstart if she can muster a top-30 finish this weekend. Other World Cup starts, as well as the 1998 Olympics, are opportunities just waiting to be grasped.

“This is the highest level you can be at. These girls are the best in the world,” she said. “All I need is one World Cup point to keep the rest of the season going. We have so few girls who travel with the World Cup team. If I can stay with these girls, that’s all I need to race with the U.S. team.”

After Mammoth, Mendes expects to get at least two more World Cup starts: Dec. 7 in Lake Louise, Canada, and Dec. 11 in Val D’Isere, France.


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