Big Mountan, MT, Mar. 23, 2001--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 the bronze medal on Day One of the Chevy Truck U.S. Alpine Championships at sunny 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 yearago and the 1996 U.S. combined championship). Winning time for the Carrabassett Valley Academy graduate was 1:28.54with Street taking the silver in 1:28.87 and Mendes third (1:29.17).
Completing the top five were former Olympic, world and World Cup champion Pernilla Wiberg of Sweden, who - likeStreet - used this season as a comeback year after injuries sidelined her in '00 and was fourth with Julia Mancuso(Tahoe City, CA) fifth in the field of 46.
"Clarky had it figured out," said women's DH/Super G Head Coach Jim Tracy. "She made the changes she needed to make"after finishing third behind Street Thursday in a FIS downhill as a lead-up to the championships.
With the men racing first Friday, Clark said the bright sunshine had softened the snow a bit by the time the women racedat 10:45 a.m. MST. "There was a little more on the line than in the FIS race. I had a title I wanted to defend and Idefinitely think I fired out of the start a little more out of the start than I did Thursday," she said.
Despite the cloudless sky and relentless sun, she went on, "The snow was pretty consistent. It was a little softer today;it was pretty warm out...
"There are some big turns in there and with the soft snow I think it makes it even a little more difficult because youhave to be so precise on your ski and you don't have the feedback from the snow," the winner said. "I watched the men gothis morning and I would've liked to have gone a little bit earlier with the harder snow.
"I tend to like harder snow anyway more than the softer snow. It's technical, you have some big turns, there's somegliding, you have some rollers and you have to be precise on your edges."
Street Learning Something Every Run
Street was disappointed about not winning, but also philosophical about coming back after two years on the sidelines,recuperating from multiple injuries to both legs and another surgery in November on her right knee in addition tolearning a new racing technique this week. "I didn't have the run I wanted," she said, "but it's been a year of trainingduring the races all year long and things have been coming together and I'm just getting hungry again, y'know?...
"I was really frustrated and then my coach came up to me and said, 'You skied the best in my turn of the whole week' andI just went, 'Whaa-a-at? Are you sure that was No. 6 you saw go by?' That's not how it felt at all, but he said 'You're justnot used to the feeling...'
"It's hard to have it at nationals with everybody watching. I'm just getting hungry and I'm starting to get moody againand all I want to do is go break something right now because I'm not happy with what I just did. But at the same time, Ican look at the big picture and say I've made a lot of progress and the fact I'm even out here and still doing it and notafraid any more is huge. First season," Street said, "that's all I wanted to accomplish...
"I'm ahead of where I thought I was gonna be; mid-season, I didn't think I was gonna get here by the end of the year. Ithought it was gonna take me another whole prep period and the beginning of next season. But, I'm here now and I'm not apatient person....it's like 'Okay I'm here now - it's time to be productive here...now...' and that's kind of the way I'm feelingtoday - I wanted to be more productive and I guess I was and I wasn't."
Mendes had no complaints. She figuured Clark and Street beat her, she didn't have a big mistake that kept her away fromthe gold (worth $3000) or silver medal. "It was a good day. I don't have a problem behind second those two," Mendes said."I wanted to win. I came out and was gunning for the gold; everyone wants to be a national champion and I'm right inthere....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.
CHEVY TRUCK U.S. ALPINE CHAMPIONSHIPS
Big Mountain, MT - March 23
1. Kirsten Clark, Raymond, Maine, 1:28.54
2. Picabo Street, Park City, Utah, 1:28.87
3. Jonna Mendes Heavenly, Calif., 1:29.17
4. Pernilla Wiberg Sweden, 1:29.20
5. Julia Mancuso, Tahoe City, Calif., 1:29.45
6. Lindsey C. KIldow, Vail, Colo., 1:29.79
7. Bryna McCarty, Concord, Vt., 1:30.32
8. Sarah Schleper, Vail, Colo., 1:30.44
9. Tatum Skoglund, Bellevue, Wash., 1:30.57
10. Rachel Roosevelt, Storrs, Conn., 1:31.09
11. Brett Buckles, Steamboat Springs, Colo., 1:31.39
12. Alex Munteanu, Rumania, 1:31.44
13. Hilary McCloy, Waitsfield, Vt., 1:31.67
14. Suki Horton, Anchorage, Alaska, 1:31.99
15. Suzan Dole, Meeker, Colo., 1:32.02