New-and-improved Mendes opens World Cup season in Colorado |

New-and-improved Mendes opens World Cup season in Colorado

The wide eyes are gone, and so is the outdated equipment. What remains is a quietly confident Jonna Mendes as her World Cup skiing opener approaches Friday, in Aspen, Colorado.

After the 21-year-old Mendes barely missed qualifying for the World Cup Finals last season, the former Heavenly Foundation racer used the off-season to scrutinize her skiing package.

“I train hard so that I can stand at the top of any downhill, World Cup, Olympic or a little regional race and know that I’ve done everything I can to be as fast as possible,” said Mendes, who is earmarked for downhill and super-G races this weekend in Canada.

Flashes of brilliance, including a 14th-place standing in combined at the 1998 Olympics in Nagano, and a career-best 12th in a World Cup downhill in 2000, reflect Mendes’ potential. A rigorous off-season training regimen, however, may bring her the consistency she seeks.

“I’m stronger right now than I’ve ever been, and it’s a great feeling to know that I’ve eliminated one possible doubt I could have in my performance,” she said. “There are so many glitches possible in a single-run performance, it’s much better knowing that you have eliminated one possible element that could hinder a race.”

In addition to her improved physique, Mendes made wholesale changes in her equipment during the off-season. She is now skiing on Fischer skis, and Salomon boots and bindings, Scott poles and Briko helmets and goggles complete the new Mendes.

“It was hard to do considering that I had raced for my previous companies since I was 8,” Mendes said. “I spent weeks and weeks (last) spring in Mammoth testing equipment to come to that decision. My switch was not hasty and I know it’s going to benefit me.”

It already has.

Mendes won her first race – the Continental Cup – on the new skis in August in Portillo, Chile.

While the U.S. Team awaits for the return of Picabo Street from a career-threatening crash in the 1998 World Cup Finals, Mendes could be the one that grabs the headlines in 2000-2001.

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