Clark Leads U.S. Women in Cortina Downhill

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Cortina D'Ampezzo, Italy Jan. 26, 2002 (USSA)--Kirsten Clark (Raymond, ME) finished 13th Saturday as four U.S. women scored World Cup points behind Austrian Renate Goetschl, who won a downhill over World Cup DH leader Isolde Kostner of Italy in 1:33.66. It was the final World Cup race for Picabo Street (Park City, UT), whose first World Cup top-10 came in Cortina in 1993.

On a day when six top-30 skiers came from outside the first 30 racers, Goetschl tightened the World Cup points race as she moved into third place, less than 10 points behind teammate Michaela Dorfmister. Goetschl was .21 ahead of Kostner while Dorfmeister was seventh.

In the final speed race before announcement of Olympic Team -- scheduled for Monday, Clark was timed in 1:34.74 with Street -- who has won twice in Cortina and been second twice -- finishing 19th in 1:35.09. Jonna Mendes (Heavenly, CA) was 20th with Katie Monahan (Aspen, CO) 26th.

"It wasn't for lack of effort," said Head Coach Marjan Cernigoj, "but they just made mistakes which hurt them. 'Clarky' definitely had an excellent run, top to bottom and Picabo said it was okay, but just an okay run...'Liner' Caroline Lalive, Steamboat Springs, CO was fast up top but then she went out before the second intermediate, Jonna was heading into the top 15 and she had mistake just before the flats, so..."

Cortina is a special place for Street, so saying good-bye to the World Cup had a little extra special meaning for her. In her second full season on the World Cup, she cracked into the top 10 in January 1993 when weather postponements deposited the women racers in Cortina for two weeks. Coach Ernst Hager worked with her, fine-tuning her ability to handle big mountains and boosting her confidence.

When she finished eighth in a Cortina downhill (moved from Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany), she was on her way; by season's end, Street was second in a downhill in Lillehammer. She always credits Hager, who retired after the 1996 season - a winter in which Street won her second World Cup DH title as well as the downhill gold medal and super G bronze at the '96 World Championships - for his patience and coaching leadership, his skills at crafting ski racers.