Rookie Mendes skis like a veteran
From the top of the course, Jonna Mendes could see the Mammoth Mountain finish area.
Although the South Shore resident had skied the hill numerous times before, the hundreds of fans clanging cowbells, the familiar course workers offering words of encouragement and the butterflies swarming in her tummy told her that this was no ordinary race.
She bellied up to the super-G starting gate, her nerves now alive with adrenalized panic. The last thing she heard was the voice of the starter, “C’mon Jonna, we’re all rooting for you.”
And just 1 minute, 20.69 seconds later, the 17-year old U.S. Ski Team member crossed the finish line in her first-ever World Cup event.
“You look down and it’s pretty steep. And I’d never been to a race with that many people lining the course. I was trying not to be so nervous. But I was breathing like I’d just run a marathon and I hadn’t even gone yet,” Mendes said.
Mendes handled the situation with veteran poise, finishing in 31st place while posting the second-best American time. She was just four one-hundreths out of the top 30. Germany’s Katja Seizinger won the super G in 1.16.08.
“I handled it pretty well. You get to a point where you’re so nervous that you can just shut down. But I knew where I wanted to be – crossing the finish line,” she said.
Mendes was in 15th place after the first of four split times. But a wide turn coming into the flat part of the course cost her a possible top 20 showing.
Still, the South Tahoe High senior had the composure to complete the run.
“At first I thought, ‘Oh well, this is only my first run,'” she said. “But I wanted to go through the finish. Some girls would’ve just given up. No way. I was still totally going for it.”
Once she reached the bottom, the uneasiness gave way to ecstasy.
Children with “Go Jonna” written on their foreheads were clamoring for autographs, while people whom she didn’t even know were asking to pose in photographs with her. And all the while, the congratulatory offerings were overflowing.
“It was awesome. I’ve never done anything so wonderful in my whole life. I’m on a permanent high,” she said.
Mendes will compete in a Nor-Am event this week before heading to the U.S. Championships March 17-24 in Sugarloaf, Maine.
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