Mendes ready for next World Cup step — the podium |

Mendes ready for next World Cup step — the podium

No word on what Jonna Mendes was planning to eat for Thanksgiving today, but the U.S. Ski Team speed specialist from Heavenly Ski Foundation hopes to feast on the competition in her World Cup season opener Friday in Aspen, Colo.

While the team’s technical racers have a couple of giant slalom and slalom races under their belts, the speed skiers are anxious to start their 2002-03 World Cup season.

“I have yet to accomplish what I have been working for as a ski racer, so I’m going to keep going until it happens,” said Mendes, a seven-year veteran of the team.

Mendes has been a notoriously fast starter, especially when the circuit visits Lake Louise, Canada. The World Cup goes from Apsen to Lake Louise for two downhills and a super-G Dec. 6-8.

“I feel so comfortable at this place — the Chateau is fabulous … There’s no trouble with the language — eh? — and it’s so much like being at home,” said Mendes in her U.S. Ski Team bio.

Mendes has accomplished many of her World Cup firsts at Lake Louise. The 23-year-old earned her first World Cup points there in 1998, broke into the top 20 for the first time in 1999 and scored her first top 10 there in 2000 when she finished a career-best sixth in downhill.

Even as Mendes’ was rebounding from a broken right foot last year prior to the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, she finished 10th in a downhill at Lake Louise.

Consequently, Mendes is ready to take the next step in her progressive World Cup career — stepping onto the podium.

“I really feel like I’ve paid my dues and put in the groundwork necessary to place on the podium,” she said. “I’m healthy, I’m strong and happy and I feel like I’ve put the Olympics behind me and am ready to tackle the next four years and become a force on the World Cup circuit.”

Oh, yes, the Olympics. Mendes did nothing at the Winter Games but enhance her chances for a big 2002-03 season. She led all Americans with an 11th-place showing in downhill and took 16th in super-G.

“I had the best time of my entire life at the Olympics but needed some time off afterward to recuperate and get excited about skiing again.”

Mendes recharged her racing battery by spending time with her family in Santa Cruz, Calif., watching her beloved San Francisco Giants and competing almost nonstop with her boyfriend.

“My boyfriend and I toured around Northern California on a quest for amusement parks and anything that we can compete at,” she said. “We compete at everything: home run derbies, go-cart racing and squash. My competitiveness runs through my veins and I just can’t shake it.”

No report on who was winning most of the time. But if Mendes lands on the podium Friday or the following week in Lake Louise, some of her teammates may be on the lookout for competitive boyfriends.

Notes: ESPN will televise the Aspen super-G on Dec. 4 … Julia Mancuso of Tahoe City and former Truckee resident Carolina Lalive will compete in the super-G and Saturday’s slalom. The slalom will be shown by NBC on Dec. 22.

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