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LENZERHEIDE, Switzerland (Feb. 24) — World Cup downhill winner Kirsten Clark displays a relaxed and casual confidence as she talks about her first World Cup podium in Lenzerheide, Switzerland.
Were you surprised by your win based on your performance at the World Championships in St. Anton?
KC: It was definitely a surprise to me. But in St. Anton when I won the combined portion it gave me a lot of confidence. Coming into these next couple of races it just showed thatI’m capable of winning races. It feels great to know you can do it.
Have you talked to your family?
KC: I called my parents from the finish line and my dad answered and I said, “I won,” and they were just as excited and happy as I was. I’m still trying to get a hold of my brother.
When did you make the call?
KC: I waited until the last racer crossed the finish.
What did you think of the course in Lenzerheide?
KC: Last year at this race in Lenzerheide it was better to have a number further back because the track sped up. This year I drew number five and I was thinking in the back of my mind “I hope it isn’t like last year.” But it was in my favor this year because the first six racers got the sun, then the clouds came in.
How did you go from hoping you could win to knowing you could win?
KC: It probably wasn’t until St. Anton until the combined downhill that I had the proof that on a race day I could win a race. That gave me the concrete evidence, so it was never thinking I would win, it was knowingI could win.
What do you think about the improvement of both the men’s and women’s teams?
KC: For me it’s just been the hard work I’ve been putting into the sport the past however many years. I’ve been on the World Cup team for five years and for me it’s the experience of having been on the circuit and knowing the courses. We’ve had success in the past with Hilary and Picabo, and now we have new skiers like Jonna, myself, Sarah and everyone else. It just takes time to get the experience under your belt.
After your success in the combined downhill in St. Anton, did you think a victory was in store so soon?
KC: It’s hard to say. I kept thinking I could do it but I didn’t know if it would happen. One of my goals this year was to be on the podium.
What about your positive attitude? How much has it helped you?
KC: I believe you’re seeing the real me. It’s the way I was brought up with my parents, racing when I was younger. Racing was always fun and something I chose to do. There have been times I haven’t been racing that well and wasn’t that positive, but for the most part this has been a really positive season. It’s always a lot more fun when you’re having good results. It’s been a long haul over here but it’s gone well.
What did your teammates think of your performance?
KC: They were all very excited — we had three in the top 10 and it was a great day for the U.S. Ski Team. Caroline Lalive called me from back in the U.S. to wish me well. I’ve received lots of faxes. And I know, too, that any of my teammates can do this, too.
Is Lenzerheide the type of course on which you normally have some success?
KC: There are three major turns in Lenzerheide, but the rest is pretty much tucking and gliding. For me it’s not actually a favorable course because I’m more of a technical skier and not a glider.
Does it give you extra confidence that you won on a course that’s not best suited for your skiing style?
KC: Yes, it gives me a lot of confidence. There were three turns, so you had to ski those turns well with the soft snow. If you got low on your line and into the soft snow you lost time.
What about your training runs?
KC: We had two training runs in one day on Wednesday. My best results in training were about 20th and then we had two days of dumping snow. It was fairly hard pack on Wednesday and Lenzerheide did a great job in getting the course ready. It was harder than I expected.
When I first came down I knew I skied well and didn’t make any major mistakes. When I saw I was in first by a second I knew it was going to be a solid run and probably a top-10 finish. But by no means did I think it was going to be a winning run.
I was definitely watching every single racer coming down and there wasn’t any one point when I said I had definitely won it.
Gauge your chances of doing well looking ahead to Salt Lake City.
KC: I think my chances are really good now. This year we had the World Championships which is a big deal for us. And the Olympics will be in our home country.We want to be able to finish strong this year and to pick our numbers next year so we can choose our starting positions. Hopefully in Salt Lake we’ll be walking away with some medals.
This and more World Cup coverage courtesy of the U.S. Ski Team.