St. Anton, Austria, Feb. 2, 2001--Kirsten Clark (Raymond, ME) was the surprise leader after the downhill portion of the women'scombined Friday at the World Championships with Austrian Renate Goetschl second, Jonna Mendes (Heavenly, CA) ninth,pre-race favorite Janica Kostelic of Croatia 13th - 1.43 back - with Caroline Lalive (Steamboat Springs, CO) tied for 16th.
The nightime slalom portion of the event begins at 11:30 a.m. EST. ESPN2 will broadcast coverage of the race tonight at 7:30EST.
Clark covered the downhill run in 1:25.85; the Carrabassett Valley Academy grad was 1996 U.S. combined champion and silvermedalist in '97. Goetschl, the last of the 26 racers and the reigning World Cup overall champion, came down in 1:26.04. Kostelicwas timed in 1:27.28; Thursday, Kostelic - who is unbeaten in seven World Cup slaloms this season - said she wanted to bewithin two seconds of Goetschl to have a shot at the gold medal in the slalom, back half of the combined.
Mendes was timed in 1:27.14 while Lalive, second to Kostelic last month in the lone combined event of the season so far, ledover the top two sections of the run but had two mistakes in mid-race and lost time over the rest of the run. Her DH time was1:27.59.
"This was a great course for me," said a smiling Clark in the finish area. "It was really hard snow, just like I'm used to skiing athome."
Lalive, who is racing with a sore right groin pull after a crash in the super G Monday, said, "I just couldn't hold my line. I don't knowwhat it was but I just couldn't hold my line."