Friedman surprise winner at nationals DH
World Cup rookie Bryon Friedman, prepping for his final round of classes at Dartmouth College, took the rest of the field “to school” Friday in Girdwood, Alaska, as he won his first national title, finishing nearly two seconds ahead in capturing the men’s downhill on Day 1 of the U.S. Alpine Championships.
Friedman, third Thursday in a pre-Championships FIS downhill won by Daron Rahlves, covered the 2.7-kilometer Bowl/Gelende racing trail at Alyeska Resort in 1 minute, 38.96 seconds. The silver medalist was Jeremy Transue, whose time was 1:40.85, with Rahlves claiming the bronze medal in 1:40.94. Bode Miller, who just arrived from Europe, fore-ran the women’s downhill so he would be eligible to race in the downhill and finished 10th.
On a sun-bathed day with temperatures in the mid-20s, Friedman capped the best season of his career. He had said the night before the race he was relaxed and looking to get his first U.S. championships – “or two!” – before heading back for his final term. Classes begin March 29 at Dartmouth.
“This was my goal all week – to save it for race day. I brought everything I had,” Friedman said. “I probably skied the most aggressively of my whole season. I wanted the national title.
“I was third (Thursday), but I didn’t give it 100 percent. That was a FIS race and I wanted to save it all for today, which is what I did.”
The race hill has two jumps, Silvertip in mid-course and Waterfall, which leads to a traverse into the final section.
“I absolutely flew off Silvertip jump and Waterfall as well,” the winner said. “I knew I was hauling; I could feel it. It’s a great course, a lot of air, a lot of fun.”
Miller, who stayed in Sestriere, Italy, after World Cup Finals ended Sunday so he could test equipment, arrived late Thursday night and said it was harder having only one run on a new hill where he’d never raced. But, he added, “We’ve been doing it quite a bit this year on the World Cup. We had a bunch of times where we had only one training run and then we had to go.”
The obvious disadvantage, Miller said, is the basic lack of familiarity with a course. “It’s tough to know where to find speed, to know what to do, and you don’t get any information on skis, either. … You make one little mistake and there are not a lot of places where you can make up that much time. I’m surprised I wasn’t a little faster.”
The men’s schedule continues today with super-G before turning to tech events with slalom Sunday and giant slalom Monday.
Mendes takes women’s DH
Two-time Olympian Jonna Mendes won the first speed event title of her career Friday, capturing the downhill that opened the U.S. Alpine Championships at Alyeska Resort by nearly a full second.
Defending champion Julia Mancuso was silver medalist and Libby Ludlow took the bronze.
Vail’s Julia Littman tied for eighth.
A day after winning the pre-Championships FIS downhill, Mendes overpowered the bottom of the 2.7-kilometer Bowl/Gelende course to win in 1 minute, 44.25 seconds in 20-degree sunshine. Mancuso, finished in 1:45.18 with Ludlow timed in in 1:45.41.
Strangely, Mendes – who was super-G bronze medalist at the 2003 World Championships and collected two silver medals in downhill at the World Junior Championships — had no speed wins at the U.S. Championships. Her two previous titles came in giant slalom – in 2001 and again in ’02.
“This is really a surprise, like both of my previous national titles,” Mendes said. “It’s coming at a really good time in my season. I’d had a frustrating time and I’ve been really down on myself and feeling pretty bad about my skiing.
“But being home and already looking forward to next season … I think it has a lot to do with why I’m getting a resurgence of energy.”
She won the FIS downhill, Mendes said, “but I still had a couple of mistakes, a couple of places to clean up, a couple of places where I could see girls were gonna take me, especially on the bottom. I was losing time down here. Today, I knew I was gonna be strong on the top and I just had to keep my speed from the top all the way down to the bottom.”
The title races continue Saturday with super G and then shift to slalom Sunday, an off day for the women Monday and the giant slalom finale Tuesday.