Mendes not ready leave Lake Louise; South Shore skier tops World Cup best again
LAKE LOUISE, Alberta – Isolde Kostner of Italy took advantage of new sunshine Friday and – as expected – collected the World Cup downhill win. The U.S. Ski Team landed two skiers in the top-10 for the second day in a row as Jonna Mendes of the South Shore finished sixth and Kirsten Clark of Raymond, Maine, tied for ninth.
The downhill performance was the best World Cup performance of Mendes’ career and marked the third time in succession that she improved her top result. Mendes capped the best World Cup weekend of her 3-year-old career with a 15th-place super-G finish on Saturday.
Mendes is at a loss to explain her talent for skiing fast at Lake Louise. She had high praise for the Chateau Lake Louise, where the team stays, for its comfort which keeps her relaxed, and for the English-speaking atmosphere, which further helps reduce stress.
“It’s so homey here,” said Mendes, who was only .90 behind Kostner. “I think having raced here so much, and having had success, I just feel more confident.”
After three top-10 training results, she sputtered a bit in the opening downhill, but she was aggressive Friday when the sun came out.
“I’m all about when you can see. Flat light doesn’t suit me very well,” Mendes went on. “I don’t know who it suits, but it makes me uncomfortable…
“I feel like I’m making a big leap in my skiing. [Thursday] it was flat light and I still did well, so it was definitely a boost to my confidence.”
Obviously, U.S. women’s head coach Marja Cernigoj was ecstatic.
“Another great day, this time from Clark and Mendes. It looks like we had even faster skis than [Thursday],” Cernigoj said. “The girls were skiing very well, from top to bottom. It’s another great result for Team USA.”
Kostner, who won here a year ago and who led all three training runs before finishing second Thursday in the first downhill of the season – only .1 behind surprise winner Petra Haltmayer of Germany – finished in 1:33.76. Second went to Carole Montillet of France in 1:34.24; seven of the first 10 racers started outside the No. 20 start spot, which was about where the sunshine arrived, chasing fog and flat light at Lake Louise Ski Area.
Mendes, who nailed the first World Cup top-10 of her young career Thursday by placing 10th in the first downhill, started 29th and was sixth in 1:34.66. Clark, who was the first skier on-course, earned the second top-10 of her career as she deadlocked Slovenian Mojca Suhadolc in ninth place at 1:34.95. Megan Gerety of Anchorage, Alaska, was disqualified for irregularities with her ski boots and Alison Powers of Winter Park, Colo., skied out.
The early racers competed in flat light, which got worse momentarily as a fog bank rolled over the top of the course for skiers 10-11-12. When the sunshine finally hit, Kostner, skiing 22nd, and the others mauled the 2.7-kilometer course on Whitehorn Mountain.
World Cup champion Renate Goetschl of Austria ignored controversy concerning cheating allegations and won the Winterstart World Cup super-G Saturday at Lake Louise Ski Area.
Mendes was 15th and Clark was 20th to score the Americans’ only points.
Goetschl, who was challenged Friday after a downhill by Kostner, covered the super-G course in 1:11.28 for her 17th World Cup win. Regine Cavagnoud of France – fourth in each downhill – was second with a 1:11.41 clocking and Martina Ertl of Germany third in 1:11.81.
Mendes, who was 13th a week earlier at the Chevy Truck Aspen, Colo., Winternational – the first super-G of the season – started 39th and came home 15th in 1:13.08.
“I wanted a top-15, so this is good,” she said. “It’s been a good weekend, and I’m confident about my skiing.
“Super-G’s not my best event, but it’s my favorite – just the one inspection and then you have to go and do it. “
Clark was 20th with a time of 1:13.36 and Gerety 32nd.
U.S. downhill/super-G head coach Jim Tracy was disappointed, but noted, “The technique’s fine, the equipment’s fine, the waxing is fine, but we have to sharpen the mental part. They didn’t attack as they could have. The girls have to keep their focus, but it’ll come. We’re close.”
Cernigoj, on the other hand, was delighted by Mendes’ and Clark’s results.
“It’s been a good weekend, and certainly another good result for Mendes and Clark,” Cernigoj said. “Jonna has had four straight top-15s and ‘Clarky’ is skiing well, so we look for it to continue.”
The next women’s race is a super-G Wednesday in Val d’Isere, France, with Olympic gold medalist Picabo Street of Park City, Utah, looking to ski her first race since a March 1998 accident in which she tore ligaments in her right knee and broke her left femur.
Nyberg Wins Birds of Prey SG by .03
By a margin of just .03 seconds, Sweden’s Fredrik Nyberg won a World Cup Sunday at the Ernst & Young Birds of Prey super G at Beaver Creek, Colo.
Nyberg took the victory with a time of 1:21.18 with Austrian Christoph Gruber just behind in 1:21.21. Norway’s Kenneth Sivertsen took third in 1:21.65.
“It’s not often that you can ski the line the way you inspect it, and that was the feeling today,” Nyberg said.
It was the first career victory in World Cup super G for Nyberg. His previous best was a second last season at Lake Louise.
Surprisingly, there were no Austrians on the podium until Gruber crossed the finish line out of the 30th start spot. Norwegians Kjetil Andre Aamodt and Lasse Kjus were in second and third, respectively, until Gruber knocked Kjus off the podium and into a fifth-place finish. Sivertsen, who started 32nd, took a top-3 finish away from Aamodt, who finished fourth.
Austrian Hermann Maier, who won Saturday’s downhill, did not like the course set and settled for a sixth-place finish. Maier had won seven times on the Birds of Prey course since it opened in ’97.
Vail’s Chad Fleischer was the top American finisher in 17th, recording a 1:23.04 on the technical and steep course. Fleischer was also the top U.S. skier in Saturday’s downhill as he placed 13th.
“Everyone was making a lot of really big mistakes,” Fleischer said. “When everyone’s making mistakes like that, because it’s (the course) so tough, it just leaves it completely wide open. I was just off-rhythm. At the beginning, I was a little too uptight and went after it a little too much.”
Teammate Daron Rahlves of Truckee skied off course on the top section after catching an edge and skiing through a gate panel.
“I knew it was a difficult spot,” said Rahlves, who finished last season with a pair of World Cup downhill wins in Kvitfjell, Norway. “I wasn’t looking ahead and when you don’t look ahead, things come at you really quick and you get all blind.”
Several skiers did not take kindly to the top section of the course, which was a very technical and turny set.
“The top part, I don’t really like that kind of setting,” said Rahlves, who was 16th in Saturday’s downhill. “To me, it was just a little too tight. I like more wide open, fast turns. The second half of the course is where I was gonna shine today. I missed the best part of the whole course.”
Jakub Fiala of Breckenridge, Colo., who started 49th, had one of the most spectacular crashes of the week as he caught an edge at the top of a jump, spun a 180 while airborne, landed on his back and slid headfirst for 30 yards. Fiala was taken to a Vail Valley Hospital after the race. He suffered a mild to moderate (grade two) concussion and had some amnesia and blurred vision. Fiala also complained about pain in his lower left leg, so an X-ray will be done to rule out a tibia fracture. Fiala will most likely leave the hospital after the tests but will need to be watched for 24 hours.
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