FILE UNDER -- Alpine

Jonna Mendes and Steve Nyman win national downhill titles

Jonna Mendes and Steve Nyman win national downhill titles{mosimage}Jonna Mendes and Steve Nyman are the new national downhill champions. The two skiers, each of whom grew up skiing on soft snow and big mountains, took the women’s and men’s titles in back-to-back races at Mammoth Mountain, California, which is hosting the Alpine skiing world championships this week.

“I had to pull from the reserve tank, but I’ve been around long enough to deal with it,” said Mendes, who was flagged off the course when the racer before her fell and was slow getting up in the finish corral. Mendes, who had completed two-thirds of the course, was taken to the top by a snowmobile for a re-run.

“This whole year was just about getting back,” said Nyman, who has dealt with several bad injuries in the two years since he last won this title (at Lake Placid in 2003). “I have been so scared this whole year because I haven’t been able to lift, and haven’t been able to train at all. I don’t have the strength.”

America’s top-ranked men, Bode Miller and Daron Rahlves, finished eighth and ninth, succeeding in helping the penalty for younger athletes.

In the women’s race, Caroline Lalive and Julia Mancuso finished tied for second, with Lindsey Kildow in fourth, where she has ended up repeatedly this season.

Present for U.S. Nationals are most of the members of the U.S. Ski Team, plus top-ranked juniors, collegians and several invitees from foreign nations, mostly Canada.

Two of the team’s most promising young downhillers, Bryon Friedman and Marco Sullivan, are here to watch the event. Both sat out most of the season with major injuries. They are rooming together at the Mammoth Mountain Inn at room 911.

There was bright sunshine and warm temperatures on the hill thoughout the day. FIS races scheduled for the afternoon were ultimately cancelled.

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