Mendes claims women's giant slalom title

Posted: Wednesday, March 20, 2002

OLYMPIC VALLEY, Calif. -- Jonna Mendes of Heavenly, Calif., won't have much time to celebrate her national title in the giant slalom.

Mendes won the women's giant slalom at the U.S. Alpine Championships for the second straight year Monday, and immediately began preparing for surgery on her right foot.

Mendes finished two runs on a sunny day at the Squaw Valley ski area in 1 minute, 50.70 seconds. Caroline Lalive of Steamboat Springs, Colo., was second in 1:51.39, and Julia Mancuso of Squaw Valley, Calif., finished third in 1:51.65.

Three Alaskans competed in the race, but only Suki Horton of Anchorage finished both runs, posting a two-run time of 2:03.31 for 55th place. Sarah Fischer of Juneau did not finish her first run, while Morgan Gose of Anchorage didn't finish the second run.

The victory was even more surprising for Mendes after she broke her foot the day after her GS victory in the slalom at the U.S. Alpine Championships last year and spent eight months off snow.

"It's just been a lot in the past year after I broke my foot and spent three months on crutches, rehabbed for five months, got back out on the World Cup circuit and qualified for the Olympic Team," she said. "And it's been tough for me to ski GS because it is so painful. But it took me a whole year and I finally feel like everything is just starting to come back because it's really hard rebounding from injuries. But I wouldn't trade it for anything. Ski racing is a risky sport, but I do it because I love it and I go into it with a full understanding of what those risks are."

The 22-year-old Mendes is scheduled to have screws taken out of her foot this morning and expected to be off skis for about a month.

"This is such a great way to end my season," Mendes said. "It was a hard season, it was the first time I've had a major injury. I had a lot of ups and downs. Now, just to end it like this is just really special to me. It's my last race, my last day skiing of the season."



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