Mendes, Nyman win nationals DH
MAMMOTH MOUNTAIN, Calif. – Defending champion Jonna Mendes shrugged off a restart Friday and tore through her second run to win the downhill opening the U.S. Alpine Championships by a full second. Later, Steve Nyman won his second U.S. DH championship, too, edging J.J. Johnson by eight-hundredths of a second. Vail’s Lindsey Kildow was fourth.Outdoor life Network will televise coverage from the Championships at Mammoth Mountain April 9 at 8 p.m. MT.
Mendes was timed in 1 minute, 33.32 seconds with Julia Mancuso and Steamboat’s Caroline Lalive tied for the silver medal at 1:34.33. Nyman finished in 1:29.81, overtaking Johnson (1:29.89). Bronze medalist was Canadian John Kucera, the NorAm downhill champion.World Cup overall champion Bode Miller, gold medalist in DH at the World Championships, was eighth with Daron Rahlves, who has won more World Cup downhills than any other U.S. man, in ninth place.
Winds scrub ‘bonus’ downhillHigh winds subsequently forced cancellation of a scheduled second downhill, a FIS-B downhill, which was an add-on when the snow held up well Thursday in downhill training, but the winds forced another change in the plans. “I’ve raced here a lot more than a lot of the guys, especially from the East,” Nyman said, “And, I was psyched to see Jonna win because she’s on Fischer, and so am I, so I knew the skis were working good today … knew they were fast. “It was a little more windy today than (Thursday when he was sandwiched between Johnson, who had the fastest time, and Kucera in third place), and I’d done all right in my training run. So, today I tried to be a little more aerodynamic; the wind can make such a difference – we had no wind (Thursday). It’s so good Bode and Daron are here, too, because that improves our (race point) penalties…”For Nyman, the gold medal caps a frustrating season in which he suffered a shin injury in a training run in January on the eve of the World Championships and was forced to miss his first Worlds. It was the latest in a string of injuries for him, starting when he broke a leg during the summer of 2003 ad then broke his leg again last winter.
Comfy + Confident = GoldThe women’s DH gold medal is the fourth U.S. title for Mendes, a two-time Olympian who has raced in four World Championships and won the downhill a year ago at Alaska’s Mount Alyeska Resort. She also has two giant slalom titles. Friday, she started 30th and was flagged off the course in mid-race when No. 29, Leanne Smith crossed the finish line but fell in the finish arena; Mendes rode back to the top in a gondola, started again after No. 41 and skied to the win. Smith finished 22nd in the field of 53.
Mendes said being flagged off “was good training, too. I was about a minute into the run when I got flagged. Y’know, you have to be ready for anything on the World Cup … and this isn’t the World Cup, of course – I didn’t get a helicopter ride to the top; I had to go back in the gondola with three guys asking ‘What’s going on?’ – but you have to learn how to not get distracted, how to keep your attention on the race. It’s a different part of training,” she said.”And even though I went 42nd, conditions were still good, so it wasn’t a problem. I was carrying some confidence from winning that training run…”I’m so comfortable here, and part of my family’s here – some of them drove 10-1/2 hours because it’s the one time they could see me race … and this afternoon I’m going to show two little cousins how to ski. This is just such a good hill for me … yeah, a lot like Lake Louise” in Canada where she registered her first World Cup points, first top-20, first top-15 and top-10 finishes.The Championships continue Saturday with the men’s super-G at 10:30 a.m. MT and the women’s SG at 1:30 p.m. MT. Live online timing transmissions are available from the U.S. Alpine Championships through USSA’s partnership with Split Second Timing at http://ussa.splitsecondrealtime.com. Vail, Colorado