Ludlow wins giant slalom, Mancuso is second at Alpine Championships

Posted: Wednesday, March 24, 2004

GIRDWOOD, Alaska - Libby Ludlow was cut, scraped, bruised and sick. But she wore the grin of a winner.

Ludlow ended the U.S. Alpine Championships by taking her first national title Tuesday, claiming the giant slalom by beating five-time medalist Julia Mancuso.

"I was shooting for the national title in super G and after I didn't get it, I was like, 'I have to do it in GS,'" Ludlow said. "I came into this nationals without any podiums, so I was ready to do it for sure."

Mancuso wasn't far from sweeping all the golds one year after winning national titles in the downhill, super G and giant slalom. Instead, she had to settle for silvers this year in all four individual events.

Her only gold was in the combined, an event that isn't an actual race but a combination of the downhill and slalom.

Four other skiers had won four U.S. medals in past competitions.

"It's exciting, but I just wish I got a real gold," Mancuso said. "It's good. It's a little different though. It's always nice to win an event. I was on my way a couple of times, but I just had too many mistakes here."

Mancuso led late in the second run with a combined time of 2 minutes, 22.53 seconds. Ludlow went four skiers later and although her second run was slower than Mancuso's by .28 seconds, the combined time of 2:22.09 was the fastest of the day.

"I didn't actually watch anybody, but I know that the girls right in front of me can lay one down just like I can," Ludlow said. "So I knew if I didn't have a good run there was definitely the opportunity for those other girls to pop in there."

Ludlow, a 22-year-old U.S. "B" team skier from Bellevue, Wash., also placed third in the downhill Friday and super G on Saturday. She was hurt in the super G when she clipped a gate with her chin - still bandaged Tuesday - and one of the poles hit her hard enough in the thigh to draw blood.

"The gate like came around and smacked it," she said. "I'm so focused I don't really feel anything."

Ludlow, who didn't remember finishing the GS after the collision with the gate, said she's also been battling a cold and rested between the two runs Tuesday. She wasn't sure she had it until the scoreboard flashed "New Leader" one final time.

"I was just happy to see that," Ludlow said. "I thought it would be close.

Jessica Kelley, whose cousin, Jimmy Cochran, won the men's slalom and GS, was third Tuesday (2:22.77). Super G and slalom winner Lindsey Kildow's run for a third gold ended with a sixth-place finish (2:23.49) Tuesday.

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