Freeskier overcomes injuries to finish 5th at U.S. Open |

Freeskier overcomes injuries to finish 5th at U.S. Open

Gina Gmeiner sat at the top of a superpipe in Vail late Sunday afternoon waiting for her final run of the 2004 U.S. Freeskiing Open.

It was going to be her fourth competitive run on a day she would rather not be skiing at all.

The pain from a season full of hard falls combined with the memory of a lost friend could have consumed the young skier’s thoughts in a moment when she really should have been focused on the icy walls of the halfpipe stretched out before her.

But they didn’t.

“I was really hurting,” Gina Gmeiner said. ” But I knew that I had to ski well for Landon.”

On the two-year anniversary of the death of freestyle skier Landon Sawyer, who was one of Gina Gmeiner’s best friends, the Steamboat skier laid down some of her strongest runs on her way to a fifth place finish at the U.S. Freeskiing Open.

“I was so impressed,” Gina’s older sister Carly said of her sister’s showing. “It’s a heavy time of year for us, and I’m just so happy about her finish and the way she kept pushing. She was just so focused all day, and I knew she was going to do well.”

Gina Gmeiner said she wanted to honor Sawyer, a former member of the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club who died tragically in a skiing accident Feb. 1, 2002, just two weeks before his 19th birthday.

“This is my biggest finish of the season,” Gina Gmeiner said of the fifth. “This a huge event for the women.”

Maria Martinud of France skied to her second U.S. Open title in two years and pocketed $2,500 for her score of 68.

Wyoming skier Jamie Sundburg finished two points back in second and Jen Hudack of Okemo, Vt., placed third. Grete Eliasson, of Lillehammer, Norway, took fourth and Gina Gmeiner finished fifth.

The finish is the latest top result for Gina Gmeiner who is pursing her freeskiing career without the help of a coach or team. Last weekend Carly Gmeiner, who is currently skiing on the NorAm freestyle circuit, accompanied her to Vail to give her support and to act as a coach.

“It wasn’t just one skier doing well; all of the women in this event were really pushing it,” Carly Gmeiner said. “The fact that Gina finished fifth in this field was amazing. They just kept pushing it, and Gina just kept stepping up.”

The competition ended a long week for the skier from Steamboat. Gina Gmeiner trained all week to take part in a slopestyle event Friday but elected to withdraw from that event to rest her bruised heels. It was a move she hoped would pay off with a top finish in Sunday’s superpipe.

“I’m really happy,” Gina Gmeiner said of the finish. “It felt good to ski yesterday, and I couldn’t have asked for a much better finish.”

In addition to her top result in the Open, Gina Gmeiner also posted a third in a Pro-X event in Park City, Utah, in December and first in a Rocky Mountain halfpipe event two weeks ago in Vail.

She will take a short break to recover from her injuries before taking part in competitions in Sugar Bowl and Big Bear, Calif., later this month.

— To reach John F. Russell call 871-4209

or e-mail

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