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For the week of March 28 through April 3, 2001

Maier, Kostelic are World Cup champions

Schlopy third in giant slalom ranks

It was an eventful week of racing during the Chevy Truck U.S. Alpine National Championships at Big Mountain, Mt.—but the jury is still out on Bill Johnson.

Johnson, 1984 Olympic downhill gold medalist, remained in stable condition but in a coma Monday following brain surgery at Kalispell Regional Medical Center 20 miles from the race site.

Doctors were credited with saving Johnson’s life after he was injured in a horrific face-forward crash during Thursday’s FIS-level downhill.

He was navigating a right turn through a section of the course known as the Corkscrew, when he lost control and pitched forward on his face before sliding through two rows of protective fencing.

Unconscious when help arrived, Johnson was treated at the scene for head trauma and transported by Alert medical helicopter to Kalispell Regional Medical Center.

According to Dr. Keith Lara, director of emergency medical services at the hospital, Johnson suffered a subdural hematoma and diffused swelling of the brain.

The doctor said, "The fortunate thing is Dr. Rob Hollis was able to perform the neurological surgery quickly. Now it’s just a matter of God and time. He’s critical, but neurologically stable."

Johnson’s accident happened shortly before 10 a.m. MST Thursday. When he arrived at the hospital, doctors worked to stabilize his airway and performed a CT scan.

He went into surgery shortly after noon.

The four-hour neurological surgery involved draining blood from his head and left lung. Additional surgery continued for lacerations on his tongue. He also suffered lacerations to his arms and legs.

On Monday, four days after Johnson’s crash, hospital spokesman Jim Oliverson said the doctors continued to see improvement in his condition.

"Bill continues to improve and we’re all cautiously optimistic," said Oliverson. "His athletic background gave him an incredible edge in his recovery. The progress he’s made has been amazing, and we’re optimistic.

"But there’s also a need to find the balance between optimism and reality—what could be down the road, just around the corner. With any patient there are post-surgery complications, and that’s a natural part of the recovery."

The Southern California native, who turns 41 Friday, was making a season-long comeback bid with an eye on making the 2002 U.S. Olympic ski team.

He had skied the Big Mountain course the previous two days in official training. The accident came in a non-championship event during the U.S. Nationals.


Street wins Thursday DH

Although Johnson’s accident dominated Thursday’s news, the winners of the FIS downhill were world super giant slalom champion Daron Rahlves and Sun Valley’s Picabo Street, who recently won the Nor-Am downhill title.

Street, who turns 30 next Tuesday, took the FIS race by .36 seconds over Lindsey Kildow of Vail, with Kirsten Clark of Maine third. Rahlves was a .43-second winner over Casey Puckett. Sun Valley’s Carl Rixon Jr. placed 37th.

On Friday, the national championships officially started and Kirsten Clark, 23, made some history and collected a $3,000 first-place payday.

Clark became the first skier to win four consecutive U.S. downhill championships when she nipped Street by .33 seconds. It was the sixth national title overall for the Carrabassett Valley Academy graduate.

Silver medalist Street was disappointed about not winning, but also philosophical about coming back from two years on the sidelines.

"I didn’t have the run I wanted," she said. "And it’s hard to have it happen at nationals with everybody watching.

"I’m just getting hungry and starting to get moody again, and all I want to do is break something right now because I’m not happy with what I did.

"But at the same time, I can look at the big picture and say I’ve made a lot of progress and the fact I’m even out here and still doing it and not afraid is huge. I’m ahead of where I thought I was gonna be—but I’m not a patient person."

Street won national DH titles in 1996 at Sugarloaf, Me. and in 1994 at Winter Park, Co. In addition, she has won two national SG championships.

Rahlves stayed hot by winning Friday’s men’s downhill. Rixon was 31st of 55 racers.

Super giant slalom winners were Pernilla Wiberg of Sweden and, in a tie, Casey Puckett and Erik Schlopy. Sun Valley’s Rixon had his best result with a 17th place in Saturday’s SG. He was 52nd in the same event last year.


Snowboard nationals

The X-Nix U.S. Snowboard Championships wrapped up last weekend at Sunday River in Newry, Maine.

Mount Snow racer Kelly Clark, 17, and Canadian Jasey Jay Anderson captured the overall Chevy Truck U.S. Snowboard Grand Prix titles and with it, new Chevy S-10 pick-up trucks.

First-year national team rider Clark, victorious Saturday night in the superpipe contest, also won Sunday’s snowboardcross, good for $1,700 first-place prizes.

Sun Valley’s Graham Watanabe was seventh in Sunday’s snowboardcross.

Watanabe’s other results were 13th in parallel giant slalom, 10th in Thursday’s slalom and 22nd in last Wednesday’s ISF boardercross.

Other top results for Sun Valley riders were:

Sondra Van Ert fourth in slalom and sixth in parallel giant slalom; Claire Cetera fourth in parallel giant slalom; Aprilia Hagglof 16th in slalom; and Quinn Orb 21st slalom.

ESPN will air coverage of the championships Thursday, April 12 at noon MDT.




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