A podium finish for Mexico at World Championships | VailDaily.com

A podium finish for Mexico at World Championships

John LaConte
jlaconte@vaildaily.com

Vail skier Sarah Schleper, who races for the Mexican ski team, finished third at the GS qualifiers at the 2017 World Alpine Ski Championships in St. Moritz, Switzerland. The GS will be held on Thursday.

VAIL — Longtime local Buzz Schleper has been very happy with his daughter's skiing at the 2017 World Alpine Ski Championships in St. Moritz, Switzerland.

"She's never even raced an Olympic or World Championship downhill, super-g or combined before," Buzz said. "Only GS and slalom."

In the GS qualifiers on Monday, Sarah Schleper, who will turn 38 years old during the World Championships, finished third.

"I feel really confident in GS," Schleper wrote in a text message on Monday. "The slope is a lot like Timberline at Mt. Hood where I've spent every summer since I was 12. … Also, the sun was shining."

The top skier to finish from every country, in addition to the top 25 ski racers overall, qualified for Thursday's World Championships giant slalom.

There was an official podium for the event, where Schleper received a trophy.

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"First ever World Championships podium for me," she texted with a winking face.

LEGITIMIZING MEXICO SKIING

Schleper was a multiple podium finisher on the World Cup circuit during her long career with the U.S. Ski Team, dating back to the '90s. Before the 2015 World Championships, she obtained Mexican citizenship and is now on a mission to build Mexico's program through its relationship with Vail.

To do that, she's focusing on her own skiing in an effort to legitimize the country's ski racing prowess. Events like the qualifiers have athletes from small, non-winter countries all over the globe, and putting Mexico in the podium spot goes a long way toward Schleper's goals.

"It's hard to be super competitive at this level without the complete support," Schleper said. "But I have a coach here Lyndsay Strange and we've been doing our best and having a lot of fun."

PERSEVERING THROUGH PROBLEMS in Switzerland

This is now Schleper's seventh World Championships, and it's been a rough go so far. Her luggage was lost in transit and she began the competitions without it.

In the downhill portion of the combined, she had to use American Jackie Wiles' skis, but that didn't turn out so bad.

"I'm not sure my skis are quite as good anyway," she said.

When she was getting ready for her slalom run, there was an incident.

"A tourist hit me and broke my pole just before the run," she said. "I was able to get a pair of poles from one of the forerunners and make the race."

Nevertheless, she managed to finish in the top-30 for her first-ever World Championships combined.

"That was really cool to see," said Buzz Schleper. "We're cheering her on back home, that's for sure."

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