Olympic Valley Calif. March 15, 2002 (AP by Rob Gloster)--Once Caroline Lalive stopped thinking about medals, she started winning again.
Lalive, who flopped in all three of her races at the Salt Lake City Games, won the U.S. women's title in the super giant slalom on Friday. The men's Super G, run in a heavy snowstorm, was won by Marco Sullivan.
Lalive fell in the downhill, the combined and the Super G at the Olympics, making it nine straight races in the Olympics or world championships she has failed to finish.
Since then she has been nearly unbeatable.
She finished second last week in the World Cup Finals downhill, and was fastest Wednesday in a lower-level Super G.
``The Olympics, it was just a big disappointment, but it's not a good depiction of who I am as an athlete,'' she said. ``I had to just keep believing in my abilities and knowing that I can finish races, contrary to everyone else's thoughts.''
Sullivan, who like Lalive was born a few miles from the Squaw Valley ski area at which the U.S. Alpine Championships are being held, followed up on his surprising ninth-place finish in the Olympic downhill.
``I had two goals for this year--to make the Olympics and to win a national championship,'' Sullivan said. ``The Olympics gave me a lot of confidence in the big events, such as today.''
Sullivan was first down the course. The snow already was heavy when he came down, and got much heavier as the race progressed.
``The main thing was you couldn't see the ground. It was very tough,'' said Sullivan, who finished in 59.24 seconds.
Thomas Lanning was second, Steven Nyman was third and Olympic double silver medalist Bode Miller--who is adding Super G to his repertoire after focusing mostly on slalom and giant slalom for the past few years--was sixth.
There was no snow falling during the women's race, held three hours earlier on the same Olympic Lady course.
Lalive finished in 58.83 seconds to win before about 150 fans--quite a different scene than last month's Olympics--in the opening race of the national championships that run through Tuesday.
Jonna Mendes finished second for the second straight time--last year, Sweden's Pernilla Wiberg won the U.S. national title in the Super G. Julia Mancuso was third.
Kirsten Clark, who won the national Super G title two years ago, fell near the bottom of the course and remained on the ground for about five minutes, but skied off on her own and did not appear seriously hurt.
Lalive considered the best all-around skier on the U.S. women's team, said she has made no changes in her skiing style since the Olympics. The only changes have been mental.
``In the Olympics, I wanted a medal so bad I forgot about skiing to the finish,'' she said.
Lalive won't get a chance to break her streak of nonfinishes in major events until the world championships next February in Switzerland, but at least she can point to an upbeat ending to the 2001-02 season.
``It's a nice way to close the season, and I'm already looking forward to next season,'' she said.
Copyright © 2000 The Associated Press