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Big Mountain, Mont. March 28, 2001 (USSA)–Sarah Schleper (Vail, CO) wasted notime crying over a lost ski, shedding the frustration of giant slalom aday earlier to lead both runs Wednesday to collect the slalom gold medalon the final day of the Chevy Truck U.S. Alpine Championships at BigMountain. Swedish star Pernilla Wiberg, the super G winner, also earnedthe U.S. combined crown.
Schleper, who “threw a shoe” when her right ski came off with about 10gates left Tuesday in GS, stormed to the first-run lead and tore throughthe second run as well, winning by more than a second and a half. It wasthe second U.S. title for the ’98 giant slalom champion at Jackson Hole;her winning time was 1:27.90.
The silver medal went to Tasha Nelson (Mound, MN) in 1:29.41 withWiberg, racing her first slalom since injuring a knee at St. Moritz,Switzerland, in December 1999, finished third (1:29.55). Completing thefirst five: Lindsey C. Kildow (Vail, CO) in fourth and Kristina Koznick(Burnsville, MN) fifth. Kildow also clinched the junior combinedcalculation when Julia Mancuso (Olympic Valley, CA) did not start hersecond run.
“I was hoping…”
“I was hoping I could pull it off. I didn’t think I could have twounlucky days in a row,” Schleper said. “I know I can ski with the bestbut I’m still no totally comfortable…There are still a few little bugsI want to work out…
“I knew I had a good chance. I wasn’t really expectinganything…trying not to, anyway.”
The new course had strange snow conditions, she said. The 30-degreeweather and mix of light rain and snow overnight created soft conditions”and it was kind slick and peel-y,” she explained. On the second run,she wasn’t concerned about skiing 15th in theflip-15 format bcause herconfidence was up. “I could’ve skied flip-30, I’m sure, and still beenfine.”
Although fog rolled in and out during the second run, hitting themiddle of the course, Schleper said she had no problem with visibility.
Nelson, a 1998 Olympian and two-time World Championships skier who wasnot named to the U.S. team this season, conceded she has struggled overthe past two winters and her slalom result probably won’t earn her aspot on the ’02 U.S. squad. However, she said, she is more determinedthan ever to regain her World Cup start spot and hopefully, a place inthe 2002 Olympics.
Schleper’s victory moved her into second place in the combined tallybehind Wiberg with Kildow third overall. Under a formula devised byWarren Lowry, longtime USSA volunteer and FIS Calculations Committeechairman who coincidentally, died while skiing last Friday in France,the combined this year included only downhill and slalom results with anew factoring formula for calculation, a modification of the oldtwo-race calculation instead of the combined times for all four events.
Jonna Mendes (Heavenly, CA), the GS champion Tuesday who was in therunning for the combined title, fell three gates from the finish of hersecond run and broke a bone in her right foot. She underwent surgery atValley North Hospital in Whitefish with Dr. Mike Soba, a U.S. Ski Teamsurgeon and chief of surgery at the hospital, performing the operation.