Taking the edge off

Gorgone, Shaw fail to make parallel giant slalom final, but stay upbeat

Luckily for Johanna Shaw, it was hard to stay upset when there were a couple of goofy Italian guys at the bottom of the women's parallel giant slalom course who were wearing top hats and funny tuxedos and waiting to take a picture with her.

Olympic organizers set up the stunt as a way to entertain crowds and athletes during the event. But it also helped take the edge off of a bad day for the rider, who trains in Steamboat Springs.

Shaw and The Lowell-Whiteman School graduate Michelle Gorgone struggled on the Olympic course at the Melezet Ski Area in Bardonecchia, Italy, during the women's parallel giant slalom event Thursday.

"I guess I was a little bit nervous," Shaw said. "I went around the gates a little too round and didn't have enough pressure on my back leg, so I just blew out of the course. It's so flat that if you made a mistake, it's pretty much over."

But Shaw was not alone. Both hometown favorites discovered the hard way that it was easy to make a mistake on the slopes of the Olympic course, but it was very difficult to overcome one.

Gorgone caught her hand while rounding a gate near the top of the course and flipped around backward. By the time she recovered, her Olympic medal dreams were in doubt.

"It was a pretty costly mistake," Gorgone said. "It happens sometimes, but I wish it didn't happen today."

She said it was hard to make up time on the Olympic course because it is flat and the gates were not too difficult.

"Everyone is running it pretty clean," Gorgone said. "There is only so much you can do on a hill like this."

Gorgone lived in Steamboat and attended the The Lowell Whiteman School from 2000 to 2001. She now is back in her hometown of Sudbury, Mass.

Shaw is from Australia but came to the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club program to train with coach Thedo Remmelink.

Four current or former Winter Sports Club riders earned positions on their countries' Olympic teams for the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin, Italy. Shaw and Gorgone are on the women's side, and Tyler Jewell and Philippe Berube are in the men's event. Gorgone and Jewell are on the U.S. team, Berube is Canadian, and Shaw is Australian.

Gor----gone finished Thursday's race in the 22nd position with a time of 1 minute, 24.43 seconds. Shaw was 29th at 1:38.86. Despite having an off-day on the slopes, Shaw said she wouldn't let it ruin her Olympic experience.

"It's been a great experience," Shaw said. "My goal was to make it to the Olympics, and it's been a hard journey. As disappointed as I am, I am still happy to be here."

-- To reach John F. Russell, call 871-4209

or e-mail jrussell@steamboatpilot.com

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