GIRDWOOD, Alaska March 23, 2004 - Libby Ludlow (Bellevue, WA), who collected her first World Cup points in giant slalom this winter, took the first-run lead in GS Tuesday and held on for her first U.S. title while Julia Mancuso (Olympic Valley, CA) finished second and earned her USA-record fifth medal at the Chevrolet U.S. Alpine Championships.
In the final event of the championships, Ludlow finished with an unofficial time of 2:22.09 at Alyeska Resort. Mancuso took the silver medal in 2:22.53 and the bronze medal went to Jessica Kelley (Starksboro, VT) with a time of 2:22.77 in the 30-degree sunshine. Ludlow's win was the third for a Dartmouth skier at Alyeska; Bryon Friedman (Park City, UT) won the men's downhill and combined.
"I knew this year I was gonna get a title," Ludlow said, "but I thought it would be in super G. But I'm almost happier with this because GS is so tough...
Champion: "I had a lot of motivation..."
"Super G is kind of my specialty, so I had a lot of motivation to get that title I came here for," she said. "This is a good hill for me because it's technical, there's a lot to it at the top. But I knew if I laid one down, I'd be in there."
The bronze medalist in downhill last Friday, Ludlow slammed into a panel in SG on Saturday and the panel whipped around, cutting her chin and one of her legs, leaving an unsightly contusion. It cost her time as she settled for the bronze in super G, too.
"I had a really good first run. I had good rhythm all the way to the bottom," she said, despite the flat light that embraced much of the course before the sun got over the ridgeline. "You had to stay with in, make your skis go in the fall line. I just trusted my balance and kind of stuck it.
On the 47-gate second run, she said, "It was pretty good on the top where it's technical ... I got a little behind with my line on the bottom," she added, "and I think that's where I lost a little time...
"It's kind of too bad the conditions deteriorated because as far as the hill goes, it's great. There's something for everyone - technical up top, then good down here," she said. "This is a nice way to end my season."
Ludlow plans a few days at home, a day of physical testing in Park City and by next Monday she'll be back in class at Dartmouth College. She was due for her first World Cup start in the GS that opened the season last October in Soelden, Austria, but she injured an ankle, that kept her sidelined for the first part of the season. Winning GS after that frustrating start to the season made the win a little more satisfying, she said.
Another record-setting performance by Mancuso
Mancuso, who set a U.S. record at midseason when she won her seventh and eighth medals at the World Junior Championships, took silver in all four individual events; being second in both downhill and slalom translated into being gold medalist in combined. A year ago, at sun-bathed Whiteface Mountain outside Lake Placid, N.Y., she won three gold medals - downhill, super G and GS.
Her performance this year broke the women's mark set in 1991 at Crested Butte, Colo., when Wendy Fisher won four medals (gold in combined, silver in super G, GS and slalom) and tied in 1993 at Winter Park, Colo., by Julie Parisien (gold in combined, silver in SG and GS, bronze in slalom). Two men have collected four medals at a U.S. championships - Casey Puckett earned four at the 2001 U.S. championships at Big Mountain, Mont., and the 2000 championships at Jackson Hole, Wyo., and Bode Miller at the 2003 Chevy championships at Whiteface.
"I almost fell a couple of times on the first run, so I knew I needed to put one down. I just needed to get a better first run," Mancuso said. "I just didn't make the mistakes on the final run that I did the first time...
"I had some problems with the light and not getting over my skis, so I had to let it go on the second run."
The championnships helped Mancuso end a frustrating season on an up note. "It was a hard season. ...I was hard to give up speed for most of the year; I only raced a couple of downhills, but I did well in super Gs. I learned a lot, though, and I know what I have to do to make a big jump. I'm excited to have all this knowledge help me move on and get better," she said.
"I'm skiing better. I'm focused more on tech skiing, so I can push everything more. I'm more on my skis, and that's good for my confidence. I'll be more competitive next year."