St. Moritz, SUI Dec. 18--Swedish multi-champion Pernilla Wibergsailed far off a jump at the bottom of the course and went on to win herfirst World Cup downhill in nearly three years Saturday, a shortened DHthat may sidelined her for a week or two because of knee problems. JonnaMendes (Heavenly, CA) followed her 12th-place finish of 24 hours earlierby finishing 20th in the second DH.
The winning time on a course that was shortened to 2.8-km because ofwinds and poor visibility was 1:12.57 with Renate Goetschl of Austria,the reigning world champion in DH, second in 1:12.79. Completing the podiumwas Hilde Gerg of Germany in third place (1:12.88) with Mendes timed in1:14.45. Kirsten Clark (Raymond, ME) went out on the lower half of theCorviglia course. By finishing seventh, Italian Isolde Kostner took overthe World Cup points lead from Croatian Janica Kostelic, who went downfor the season Thursday when she tore knee ligaments in a DH trainingcrash.
"Wiberg really took off on a jump at the end - she must've gone 40 meters- and I'm sure that took something out of her knees. She was limping inthe finish area," said U.S. Coach Marjan Cernigoj. Wiberg, whose onlyother DH victory in her string of 24 wins came during World Cup Finalsat Vail, Colo., in March 1997, said, "I've had seven or eight operationson that left knee, so I guess it's a little crushed in there ... maybeI could out for a few weeks."
Cernigoj said Mendes - who ran first and held onto 12th place Friday- cost herself with several minor mistakes in the middle of the race "andshe couldn't maintain her speed at the bottom. But she skied aggressively,which is good to see." Clark also was skiing aggressively before she wentoff course, "but I'd rather see her attacking like that than playing itsafe and doing poorly," the coach said.
The winds on the upper part of the course forced organizers to lowerthe start from the normal DH gate to where the super G begins. Visiblityalso was a problem for the women with a handful of spectacular crashes;there were a dozen DNFs and two disqualifications.
The Cafe de Colombia women's tour concludes its pre-Christmas scheduleSunday with a super G. Coverage of the super G will be Sunday night at7 EST on Outdoor Life Network.