MARIBOR, Slovenia, Feb. 13 2004 - Jeff Harrison (Steilacoom, WA/White Pass Ski Team/U.S. C Team) won the men's giant slalom Friday at the World Alpine Junior Championships. He led both runs for the third U.S. medal of the championships - and the first world junior champion from White Pass.
"I knew I could do it if I skied to my potential and had two clean runs," Harrison said. "It hasn't sunk in but I'm really very happy."
Harrison, skiing sixth on the rock-hard snow, was timed in 2:17.40 with Kjetil Jansrud of Norway taking the silver medal. Ted Ligety (Park City, UT/Park City Ski Team/U.S. Development Team) ran his head through a gate panel during the first but laid down a the ninth-fastest second run and moved up to 12th place (2:19.55) with Andrew Weibrecht (Lake Placid, NY/New York Ski Educational Foundation/U.S. Development Team) in 20th place.
"It was great. I couldn't've asked for anything more," said Harrison, who was pleased that his parents were in the crowd. "They haven't seen me race very much lately."
Between runs, he said, he tried to keep a clear head and not think of the second, not focus on anything other than not focusing. "I tried not to think," said Harrison. He becomes the first U.S. skier to win the men's GS World Juniors title since Jeremy Nobis won at Alaska's Mount Alyeska in 1989.
"I like this type of snow," he said, laughing that it was bulletproof and nothing like the moist snow the Cascades and central Washington receive. "Nope, nothing like this at home."
Walt Evans, U.S. competition director and team leader for the U.S. squad in Maribor, said, "Conditions were fast with hard snow - it's the hardest I've ever been on - and Jeff went right at it. He won the first run by about a half-second and didn't let up."
This is the first gold medal for the Americans in these championships. It follows the silver Tuesday from Lindsey Kildow (Vail, CO/Ski&Snowboard Club Vail/U.S. B Team) and a super G bronze Thursday from Julia Mancuso (Olympic Valley, CA/Squaw Valley Ski Team/U.S. A Team).
"This is a great step for the entire team but it's obviously outstanding for Jeff, great for the guys," Evans added. "And we don't feel this will be the end of it. We're after the Marc Hodler Trophy and this is one big step forward."
The schedule for the next two days, juggled because of weather concerns earlier in the week, shows women's GS Saturday during the day and men's slalom at night with the women's slalom Sunday.