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. title in the super giant slalom on Friday. The men's Super G, featuring Bode Miller, was set for later in the day.
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.
But since then she has been nearly unbeatable.
She finished second last week in the World Cup finals downhill, and was fastest here Wednesday in a lower-level FIS 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.''
Lalive, 22, 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.
On Friday morning, she finished in 58.83 seconds to win the Super G before about 150 fans _ quite a different scene than the Olympics. It was the opening race of the U.S. Alpine Championships, which 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 in Friday's race.
Kirsten Clark, who won the U.S. Super G title two years ago, fell near the bottom of the course and slid down about 100 yards. She stayed on the ground for about five minutes, but then skied off on her own and did not appear to be seriously injured.
Lalive won't get a chance to break her streak of non-finishes in major events until the world championships next February in Switzerland, but at least she's ending the 2001-02 season on an upbeat.
``It's a nice way to close the season, and I'm already looking forward to next season,'' she said.
The entire U.S. team, which collected only Miller's two silver medals at the Salt Lake City Games despite high expectations going into an Olympics on home slopes, could use a boost heading into the offseason.
``Of course, the Olympics didn't go the way we wanted them to go,'' Erik Schlopy said Thursday after posting the fastest time in a men's FIS Super G. ``I call it the post-Olympic hangover.''
Schlopy headed into the season as an Olympic medal contender. But illness wiped out his training in the late summer and fall, and he struggled throughout the World Cup season. At the Olympics, he failed to finish the giant slalom and was 14th in the slalom.
Though he says success in the U.S. championships wouldn't make up for his disappointments at the Olympics, Schlopy sees the season-ending event as a chance to wrap up the year on a high note.
``Redemption will have to wait until next year at the world championships,'' he said. ``The World Cup season is over. We are here to have fun and compete against each other.''
Copyright © 2000 The Associated Press