Mendes makes World top-10 list
VAIL, Colo. – Well, she did it folks. Hometown favorite Jonna Mendes posted the top American finish in Friday’s combined at the 1999 World Alpine Ski Championships. Taking 10th spot overall after a tiring day of one downhill run and two of slalom, Mendes instantly became a media sweetheart.
In a popular reprise of her famed Nagano shimmy dance at the finish, the 19-year-old from South Lake Tahoe entertained cheering fans with her trademark good humor. Jonna Mendes scored a combined time of three minutes, 15.50 seconds after a spectacular final slalom run pushed her up the scoreboard. The only other American to finish all three runs was 11th finisher Kate Monahan with a combined total of 3:15.64.
Leading the day was perennial favorite Pernilla Wiberg of Sweden with a total time of 3:08.52. Wiberg, who owns four other world champion titles, told the press, “This feels good. After the super-G (ninth), I was a little disappointed. Today, I was relaxed. I still get this nervous feeling and feel pressure at age 28 after so many races! But you always have to believe you may win a gold medal in order to make it happen.”
The only Austrian to find the podium was Renate Goetschl in second at 3:08.67 and France captured bronze with Florence Masnada’s time of 3:08.97.
Against such experienced racers, Mendes scored what is seen as her best career finish. In the first run of the day, she was in 14th position after the downhill, then 15th with the first, tighter slalom run and finally ninth in the last, more open slalom race. After a fun-loving bout of leading the entire stadium through the ‘wave,’ Mendes recounted her day.
“This is pretty great, I just can’t get over it. I don’t race a lot of slalom and the course looked pretty straight. Kate [Monahan] called me with a course report and she said that it was OK and just punch it. It’s so much more real when the report comes from someone who has run the course, instead of just observing. But my coach told me about the delay gate [where several racers made mistakes], and that really helped. So with the last slalom I just went for it.
“This is definitely one of the best days I’ve ever had!”
After several television and print interviews and hundreds of congratulations, Mendes finally spent a few minutes with her visiting family and friends. Among them was her boyfriend, Ryan Adams, who drove out to Colorado from Tahoe City.
“It’s a great chance to be able to see her in a big race like this, especially since I didn’t get to see her at Nagano last year. Plus, I got to know immediately how she did. Usually I have to wait two or more hours until she calls with her results,” Adams said.
Mendes admits her schedule has been full, with ski team requirements taking precedence over family time. Exhausted, she skipped the final downhill training run and spent Saturday lounging.
“I had already done two training runs plus raced it again in the combined. We all got up early for Saturday, then realized that none of the other girls from the combined were running it, so we just stayed home. I basically slept all day, because I really need to rest up for the downhill. When I get home next week, I think I’ll sleep for three days.”
Still fatigued, Mendes posted 25th when the Sunday women’s downhill went off without any of the weather hitches and crashes that earmarked the previous men’s event. The Austrians did their trademark sweep, with Renate Goetschl claiming another gold, Michaela Dorfmeister in silver position and Stefanie Schuster winning the bronze. Megan Gerety took the honors of best American, placing a respectable eighth, followed by Kirsten Clark in 16th and Kate Monahan in 19th.
Still glowing from her placement in the combined, Mendes seemed more accepting of her downhill result.
“Friday was a great day, but today is a different day and a different race. I had a really good chance of doing well. For me, it’s one of the worst feelings to get down to the finish knowing you could have done well, but you didn’t. Today, I just wasn’t attacking; it wasn’t my normal skiing.”
Even with a less-than-awesome showing in the downhill, Mendes received plenty of attention from fans who respect her racing talent. In an interview, when asked how she hoped fans would think of her, she replied, “I hope they remember my name, and in 2002 I hope to be on the podium for the U.S.”
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