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Big Mountain, MT, Mar. 25, 2001–Swedish great Pernilla Wiberg, coming back from a leg injury and looking to extend her season with some additional racing in the USA, collected her first foreign national title Sunday as she cruised to victory in super G at Big Mountain. Jonna Mendes (Heavenly, CA) was second with defending champion Kirsten Clark (Raymond, ME) in third place.
ESPN will broadcast coverage of the first two days of the Chevy Truck U.S. Alpine Championships April 6-7 at 4 p.m. EST each day.
On a flat-light day — brought on by cloud cover in sharp contrast to the cloudless skies of the first two days of the championships, Wiberg – who has won just about everything else her sport offers – added a new wrinkle to her resume as she took the gold medal (and $3,000 first place money) in 1:22.45. Mendes earned the silver in 1:22.83 with Clark third with a time of 1:22.91.
(Wiberg was allowed to compete under a reciprocal agreement in which any nation, which allows U.S. alpine skiers to compete in its national championships, is permitted to have its skiers compete in U.S. title races. She was fourth in the opening downhill race and said she plans to compete in the GS and slalom, too.”)
Mendes: “I can’t complain…”
Wiberg, the former Olympic, world and World Cup champion who injured her left knee in December 1999 while winning aWorld Cup race in St. Moritz, Switzerland, said it was the first national title she has won outside of Swedishchampionships. She sat out much of the first half of this season. She has had a dozen operations on her two knees and,after returning before the World Championships in January, said, “My season is ending too soon. But this has been good -it’s a good mountain and it’s been fun racing here.”
Mendes was philosophical about Wiberg winning a U.S. title before the 21-year-old Lake Tahoe skier won one, “I couldn’tlose to a better person,” she said. “She’s got one of the best track records of anyone on the World Cup circuit, so I can’tcomplain about being right behind her…
“I just concentrated on charging and firing the whole way down,” Mendes said. “I had a mistake in there for sure” shesaid, referring to a section at the top of the course, “but the way it ended I can’t complain.”
She added “Really, all I was concentrating on was just firing it down the whole way and charging because, for me, thoseare the best runs when I am just totally letting ’em fly and doing whatever I can to attack the whole way down.”
Mendes, Clark play cat ‘n’ mouse
Assessing her finish vs. Clark’s performance, Mendes said, “We’ve been flip-flopping all year. There’ve been a lot of upsand downs, and Clarky’s been really fast lately so it’s nice to know that I can be right in there with her.”
Clark, who picked up her sixth U.S. title, including her record-setting fourth consecutive downhill title Friday, wentstraight to the team radio when she reached the finish area. She radioed a course report back to teammates JuliaMancuso (Tahoe City, CA) and Sarah Schleper (Vail, CO).
“They ran nine and 12, so I knew I had to get over there right away an let ’em know it ran pretty well and the turns thecoaches talked about, you definitely had to be strong and be on it, and then I wanted to tell them about down here thespeed had picked up pretty fast down here on the bottom flat and you had to stay ahead of the terrain,” she said.
“It’s slowly getting softer and softer every morning, but Big Mountain has put on great races,” Clark said. “They’veprepared the hill very well every day.”
The women take off Monday and return to action Tuesday with giant slalom before ending the Chevy Truck U.S.championships Wednesday with a slalom.
Chevy Truck U.S. Alpine championships
Big Mountain MT – March 25
Women’s Super G
1. Pernilla Wiberg, Sweden, 1:22.45
2. Jonna Mendes Heavenly Calif., 1:22.83
3. Kirsten Clark, Raymond, Maine, 1:22.91
4. Julia Mancuso, Tahoe City, Calif., 1:22.96
5. LLindsey C. Kildow, Vail, Colo., 1:24.35
6. Sarah Schleper, Vail, Colo., 1:24.44
7. Christin Lathrop North Conway, N.H., 1:24.92
8. Rachel Roosevelt, Storrs, Conn., 1:24.99
9. Hilary McCloy, Waitsfield, Vt., 1:25.41
10. Gretchan Glaser, Tangent, Ore., 1:25.88
11. Brett Buckles, Steamboat Springs, Colo., 1:25.90
12. Madaileine Sparks-Krebs, Waitsfield, Vt., 1:26.00
13. Suki Horton, Anchorage, Alaska, 1:26.15
14. Resi Stiegler, Jackson Hole, Wyo., 1:26.32
15. Crystal Wright, Wilson, Wyo., 1:26.37