Monahan places 17th |

Monahan places 17th

Tim Mutrie
Aspen Times Staff Writer

SNOWBASIN, Utah – After sitting out the past two seasons rehabbing a knee injury, Aspen’s Katie Monahan capped off her comeback by matching her best mark of the season, a 17th, in the women’s Olympic super G Sunday.

Monahan, 29, trailed Americans Kirsten Clark of Maine and Jonna Mendes of California in 14th and 16th, respectively. Italy’s Daniela Ceccarelli combined with Croatia’s Janica Kostelic and countrywoman Karen Putzer to shut the Americans out of medals in the final Olympic event at Snowbasin.

Coming from the No. 21 start position, Monahan had a clean ride down the steep, twisting Wildflower course. But her time, one minute, 15.59 seconds, was exactly two seconds back from Ceccarelli, who started earlier at No. 9.

In contrast to the women’s downhill last week, which had to be postponed due to high winds, conditions were ideal for high-speed racing yesterday, with sunny skies and comfortable temperatures for spectators in the mid-40s.

“I’m happy with how I skied,” Monahan said. “I was psyched. I had a good run.”

Following Monahan’s finest season, the 1998-99 campaign that included a career-best third in a World Cup super G, she was injured in a training crash. And initially, doctors thought she’d be able to return in a couple of weeks. But three surgeries and two seasons on the sidelines passed before she staged her comeback this winter. Earlier this season, Monahan posted a 17th and a 20th in World Cup super Gs, which cemented her spot on the U.S. Olympic team.

“It just feels great to be out here racing,” Monahan said. “It’s good to be here and be a member of the Olympic team and race. It’s just awesome.

“And I think all the girls will take this energy through the rest of the season. We still have a couple World Cups left this season and then U.S. nationals.”

Monahan, and other racers who started deep in the 43-woman field, appeared at a slight disadvantage as the course continued to soften following the 10 a.m. start. However, Croatian sensation Kostelic, also the gold medalist in the combined Thursday, posted her silver medal result from the No. 16 spot.

“I think it slowed down a little bit,” Monahan said. “It’s hot today, and the snow takes a beating when it’s this warm. But it wasn’t bad. The set was pretty technical for that hill, so it was real challenging, which is cool. You want someone to win the Olympic gold ’cause they earned it. And it was exciting; a good adrenaline rush.”

Monahan said she didn’t put too much pressure on herself entering Sunday’s race, her only event of the games.

“I really wanted to have a good solid race here and really enjoy it and not get too nervous or get too hung up on what place I was going to get,” said Monahan, who grew up ski racing at Sunlight near Glenwood Springs. “I’ve worked really hard to get here, and I really wanted to soak it up and enjoy it and ski well.”

Fans lined the course as the women zoomed by yesterday at upwards of 50 mph. At the base, thousands jammed the grandstand area, and the applause grew frenzied when the four Americans were on course.

“It was awesome. The crowds were roaring. It was cool and I had a blast. It’s everything you think it will be,” she said. “But I know some of them [American women] wanted to be closer to the medals, and I know people are disappointed. But it’s hard to be too disappointed with all this good energy going on.”

Monahan plans to enjoy the Olympic events this week before returning home to Aspen for a couple days and then returning to Europe to resume the World Cup circuit.

In the meantime, “I’ll be loving it,” she said. “It feels awesome. And now I can have a good time at the games.”


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