Mendes defends national GS title
SQUAW VALLEY, Calif.<Jonna Mendes was the surprise winner in defending her giant slalom title in the final women1s event at the 2002 Chevy Truck U.S. Alpine Championships.ESPN will broadcast coverage from the championships April 7.3Both of them have been complete surprises, said Mendes, reflecting back on the title she won last year at Big Mountain. 3Both years I went into them thinking that my chances weren1t that great and that a podium finish would be tremendous, and both years I1ve come out with a win.Mendes, who skis primarily downhill and super-G, skied to a combined two-run time of 1 minute, 50.70 seconds, as Caroline Lalive of SteamboatSprings was second at 1:51.39, followed by Julia Mancuso in third at 1:51.51. Mancuso, for the third time in these championships, was the top junior finisher.3Jonna is an awesome competitor and a great skier so I1m happy for her today, Lalive said. 3It1s a great way for her to finish off the season defending the title.For the first time in these championships, sunny skies and warm weather greeted the racers as Mendes, starting No. 2 in the first run, took the early lead with a 55.23 and held on to start No. 30 in the second run and defend her title.3I couldn1t believe it, Mendes said of her first run lead. 3I ran second, so it wasn1t like it was obvious that I had a great run. But then I was like OOh, I beat Koz, that1s pretty good.1 And then the girls kept coming down and it was really close.Indeed, with a 0.06 second lead over Lalive and the top 10 separated by only 1.5 seconds, Mendes stuck with her game plan and cruised through the 38-gate second-run course.Race favorites Sarah Schleper of Vail and Kristina Koznick finished fifth and seventh respectively.The victory was even more surprising for Mendes after she broke her foot the day after her GS victory in the slalom at the U.S. Alpine Championships last year and spent eight months off snow.3It1s just been a lot in the past year after I broke my foot and spent three months on crutches, rehabbed for five months, got back out on the World Cup circuit and qualified for the Olympic Team, she said. 3And it1s been tough for me to ski GS because it is so painful. But it took me a whole year and I finally feel like everything is just starting to come back because it1s really hard rebounding from injuries. But I wouldn1t trade it for anything. Ski racing is a risky sport, but I do it because I love it and I go into it with a full understanding of what those risks are.
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