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Big Mountain, Mont. March 23, 2001 (USSA)–Soft-spoken Kirsten Clark (Raymond, ME) continued to let her skis do her talking Friday as she became the first skier to win four straight U.S. downhill titles, edging teammate Picabo Street (Park City, UT) by .33. Jonna Mendes (Heavenly, CA) took thebronze medal on Day One of the Chevy Truck U.S. Alpine Championships atsunny Big Mountain.
ESPN will broadcast coverage April 6-7 at 4 p.m. EST each day.
Clark led at each checkpoint as she rolled to her sixth title overall(including the last four DHs, the super G title a year ago and the 1996U.S. combined championship). Winning time for the Carrabassett ValleyAcademy graduate was 1:28.54 with Street taking the silver in 1:28.87and Mendes third (1:29.17).
Completing the top five were former Olympic, world and World Cupchampion Pernilla Wiberg of Sweden, who – like Street – used this seasonas a comeback year after injuries sidelined her in ’00 and was fourthwith Julia Mancuso (Tahoe City, CA) fifth in the field of 46.
“Clarky had it figured out,” said women’s DH/Super G Head Coach JimTracy. “She made the changes she needed to make” after finishing thirdbehind Street Thursday in a FIS downhill as a lead-up to thechampionships.
With the men racing first Friday, Clark said the bright sunshine hadsoftened the snow a bit by the time the women raced at 10:45 a.m. MST.”There was a little more on the line than in the FIS race. I had atitle I wanted to defend and I definitely think I fired out of the starta little more out of the start than I did Thursday,” she said.
Despite the cloudless sky and relentless sun, she went on, “The snowwas pretty consistent. It was a little softer today; it was pretty warmout…
“There are some big turns in there and with the soft snow I think itmakes it even a little more difficult because you have to be so preciseon your ski and you don’t have the feedback from the snow,” the winnersaid. “I watched the men go this morning and I would’ve liked to havegone a little bit earlier with the harder snow.
“I tend to like harder snow anyway more than the softer snow. It’stechnical, you have some big turns, there’s some gliding, you have somerollers and you have to be precise on your edges.”
Street Learning Something Every Run
Street was disappointed about not winning, but also philosophical aboutcoming back after two years on the sidelines, recuperating from multipleinjuries to both legs and another surgery in November on her right kneein addition to learning a new racing technique this week. “I didn’t havethe run I wanted,” she said, “but it’s been a year of training duringthe races all year long and things have been coming together and I’mjust getting hungry again, y’know?…
“I was really frustrated and then my coach came up to me and said, ‘Youskied the best in my turn of the whole week’ and I just went,’Whaa-a-at? Are you sure that was No. 6 you saw go by?’ That’s not howit felt at all, but he said ‘You’re just not used to the feeling…’
“It’s hard to have it at nationals with everybody watching. I’m justgetting hungry and I’m starting to get moody again and all I want to dois go break something right now because I’m not happy with what I justdid. But at the same time, I can look at the big picture and say I’vemade a lot of progress and the fact I’m even out here and still doing itand not afraid any more is huge. First season,” Street said, “that’s allI wanted to accomplish…
“I’m ahead of where I thought I was gonna be; mid-season, I didn’tthink I was gonna get here by the end of the year. I thought it wasgonna take me another whole prep period and the beginning of nextseason. But, I’m here now and I’m not a patient person….it’s like’Okay I’m here now – it’s time to be productive here…now…’ andthat’s kind of the way I’m feeling today – I wanted to be moreproductive and I guess I was and I wasn’t.”
Mendes had no complaints. She figured Clark and Sttreet beat her, shedidn’t have a big mistake that kept her away from the gold (worth $3000)or silver medal. “It was a good day. I don’t have a problem behindsecond those two,” Mendes said. “I wanted to win. I came out and wasgunning for the gold; everyone wants to be a national champion and I’mright in there….But I just got out-skied.”
The women savor a day off Saturday at the Chevy Truck U.S.championships then resume Sunday with super G.